Friday, January 12, 2007

Yoga and Feldenkrais

Marle in down dog
Yoga can be called the science of union. Union between our real Self and the ordinary mind/ body go to work, talk to friends, eat a meal self. Or perhaps the union between inner awareness and outer action. Or perhaps the union between earth and spirit.

Another way of thinking about union, is to call it connection, or re-connection. It is in this light, that I think Feldenkrais work can be so useful to yoga. If we are seeking, through yoga, to connect with a more real and “eternal” part of ourselves, we have no choice but to come to an inner quietness and awareness. Indeed, the second verse of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a revered text thousands of years old, defines yoga as the “stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.”

To reconnect to the stillness in us, this is what all the fuss is about, and when we come to that stillness, one and all, whether watching a sunset, listening to music that touches us, moments of lost nowness in meditation or skiing or sex, we know the fuss is worth it.

And in yoga, all this moving of the limbs about is nice for exercise and flexibility, but within that movement, can we find a still place that can be just here, just now, can quietly and reverently experience exactly what and how and where we are in this moment? This being quiet and being now, that is the essence of yoga.

And how can Feldenkrais help that?

Well, in the Feldenkrais Way, we like to let things slow down, so attention can increase. We like to lower effort and “trying,” once more so awareness can increase. We like to shift attention from “getting there,” from the “goal,” to the process, the exploration of “how” we get to the goal.

Indeed a whole branch of the Feldenkrais work is called Awareness Through Movement. Movement is the word that has the most action in it, and the thing we tend to notice in these lessons, but the phrase is quite clear: we are after Awareness through this moving.

So we have a system, the Feldenkrais system, based on learning about awareness through slow and non-straining and exploratory and non-goal obsessed moving, and we have another system, the Way of Yoga, looking to bring about a unity of mind and body, or ordinary self and Higher Self, of earthly physicality and internal stilling of the mind. These two can, it seems to me, be of great use to each other.

Yoga can offer the Feldenkrais Way a specific set of shapes, or postures, or asanas, with which to explore awareness. It can offer the centuries’ accumulated wisdom of poses that ignite and suggest various strengths and possibilities in the human form. Feldenkrais thinking and practice can offer yoga a way of moving to these asanas, and even more important, within these asanas, to discover greater awareness in each moment as well as possibilities for ease and stillness that might not be found if one were going about yoga in the all too common mode of: “Am I getting this posture right? Right?,” which often translates into an undercurrent of unspoken, but deeply felt, “What am I doing wrong now?”

In the exploration and slowness and commitment to the “how,” of the Feldenkrais Way, we have an opportunity to deepen and soften and bring our yoga practice to a stillness that is much too often missing.

And this is nice.

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