In the back of a studio windowed in walls of sunset skies, parallel moments of human experience intersect my presence. It is a healing exchange. I’ll focus on observation of a pedagogical method and what I can translate into words of new physical sensation, rather than unpacking the emotional and spiritual effects of this day’s practice, except to say that it is a saving grace.
I experience a multidirectional flow of mid-line awareness; subtle shifts in perception; and wide feelings of acceptance and compassion during three months of twice-weekly yoga on the mat led by Rachel Sigrid Freeburg.
A Pedagogy of Trust
There is a cool temperature to the practice. I detach from yoga, from state and process. Like swimming in eddies of temperature I choose to follow, or feel flow along without me. Poses change over time. And here, I don’t balk or get giddy as new doors open where nothing before had swung. I’m grateful for Rachel’s trust in the form. It’s the idea that a practice does its thing whether we watch it or not. It feels like I’ve spent time diving the core depths of philOtheory from which life comes to us, and now I’m floating where its surface meets the sky.
With intention toward the poses, sensation and breath her pedagogical method[i] grows independent somatic knowledge and a room full of unassuming yogis. It brings about changes in me as if from behind my back (#lowbrow) I see now in looking that this reminds me of my mentors in other ancient forms: Joey McNamara (Bikram, Daibeiquan) and Jerry West (Tai Chi, Qigong, and Zen Buddhist meditation). These teachers have the form as a place of trust. Form: movement, intention, breath, and state, maybe. The pedagogical method is simple: trust the form.
A choice of state. And then letting go of state and choice, and form. You are not separate from the form, although we can choose to see it, and we are able to have a conversation with it[ii]. As Rachel facilitates, I’m not thinking about how I feel about the form. It is an unknown conversation had with the form. stood facing, lying under, dropped forward, like a rolling point of contact of the form and me – over moments, a lifetime. I feel it’s like this with all ideas, people, and experiences (if we have it that we are separate from anything at all).
Feeling Brand New
In trying to communicate the awareness of different physical sensations, I can say my proprioception lights up along areas once offline and the activation of muscle groups, intention of energy and line of action is accessible to me in ways that I haven’t yet remembered. I remember feeling a new kind of separation of one thigh from the other; the front of my hips drawing together and widening across the sacral joints and increasing the distance between femur heads in acetabula; my ribs centered while knitting the internal anterior of my body allowing brea(d)th through my midline.
In Adho Muhka Svanasana (Down Dog) there is new awareness of my limbs. I remember the Alexander Technique fountain pouring out the top of my head as my shoulders begin to wrap support behind me, which in this position is above, floating down-up toward my pelvis[iii]. My upper arms outward rotate in joints that are at the sides of me, not in the front corners as they feel in my daily. It can be the same here sitting, typing. My shoulders can do yoga while I type (“my shoulders” as different from “me” ; “I” as separate from “yoga”… What do I say then, “I”? “We”? “Yoga” ?)
I can go in and out of doors at any moment, and nothing always too.
I’m aware that I notice thingsin a way that sits back a bit more than before. A waking sense that reminds me of the time Bebe spoke about the eyes ability to move along a spectrum of actively looking out and passively taking in. I feel I am in a space where the spectrum knows it’s not a spectrum. Life is happening. Death is happening. Yoga is happening. As we repeat… or not. As we move through time and space together. A practice that comes to itself as a ‘self’.
Gratitude and Gradients
Focus can illuminate an experience and focus can burn it gone.
I remember once in Savasana (Corpse pose) I lay, tears streaming. I wondered at this, since I had not been particularly emotional or scaling the depths of my fears and joys that day, I was simply moving through the poses with no larger context present in my consciousness. Sometimes the coolest shallows are the most beneficial. I am grateful for this experience, for the way it was led, and for the form from which it comes to us.
Gradients of focus and depth do different things. Rachel Sigrid’s matter-of-fact approach to perception, to sensitivity, to existence is healing for me. I carry it into my everyday life. It helps me to realize the form does what it does, just like we do[iv].
[i] “Method” is as much about a teacher’s way as it is the nameable sequence of activity.
[ii] I remember here that Rachel used that same turn of phrase “having a conversation with the form” as she described how she felt about her own choreographic work – that she was having a conversation with dance.
[iii] I adore the directional awareness of “up”, “down”, “behind”, etc. as we move our bodies, it amplifies the energy lines to feel them in different relationships to gravity.
[iv] “The observer is the observed.” J. Krishnamurti among others. We are not separate from form – from anything at all. It is our perception that is our experience. We can perceive ourselves as somewhere in the perceptual messsh of separate from the rest of existence and existence itself.
prompted by final reflection assignment for Rachel Sigrid Freeburg’s Yoga class at The Ohio State University AU’16.
photo by ni co le