"You don't use the body to get into the pose. You use the pose to get into the body."
I read recently revisited this mantra when I came across it in a book about Yin Yoga. Before I go on - if you haven't come across Yin Yoga before then I highly recommend it! It's the opposite to the "Yang style" Vinyasa Flow yoga that I usually teach, so the two compliment each other beautifully! Think slow, steady and ready to take your mind to a whole other place!
But back to the mantra. How many times have we said to ourselves "Come on body! Don't give up on me now! Just a little further" when trying to get into a certain pose, or stretch, or, for those surfers out there, whenever you're trying to practice your turns, popups, paddling or whatever it is... We're always asking this (great) body of ours to do whatever activity or position our mind dreams up, and we get frustrated when it doesn't achieve what out mind wanted it to achieve...
But the above mantra asks us to flip this relationship, and suggests we use the pose - or the activity - to get our mind into our body. This is the essence and main goal ("goal" is the wrong word because, of course, any good yogi doesn't have goals, but experiences, yadda yadda yadda, but you know what I mean) or a yoga practice, but this all too often gets forgotten.
It's not that achievements are bad things. They're great things! And an awesome opportunity to look back, reflect, give ourselves a pat on the back (I'm the worst at that) and see the fruits of our labour. But if we only focus on the achievements, then we never look at whats going on inside, right here, right now, and learn how to be happy on the journey, and not just at the end when we're achieved greatness. If we never look inside then we miss the opportunity to really learn about ourselves, about what makes us happy, or what our mind tends to do if we're in an uncomfortable position (a forward bend, say, or an award conversation), and how we can change our experiences by flipping our perception.
But man that's not an easy ask. A couple of days ago I did a kettle bells class (out of curiosity, as the only time I've really used a kettle bell before was to anchor my students during a SUP yoga class) and felt all kinds of aches and pains the next day. "Brilliant!" I thought, "a Vin practice is exactly what I need!" But as soon as I started melting into one of my favourite poses, pigeon (I know I know, yogis aren't supposed to have favourites), I came across stiffness in my gluteus (bum, in other words) much sooner into the pose. "I told you this was want I needed" I found myself saying to myself, which was soon followed by "Ok, this feels seriously tight. Come on body, time to let me and loosen up, or I don't know how long I'll last here! This is killing me!"
And then I remembered the mantra; "You don't use the body to get into the pose. You use the pose to get into the body." And, after giving myself a mental slap on the wrist for forgetting, I switched my perspective to Curious Witnessing, rather than Impatiently Wanting.
It wasn't an easy ride, and I kept having to remind myself of the wise mantra, but after the practice I felt lifted yet grounded, calm and content.
Yes, the body will become stronger and more flexible the more we use it and stretch it, and that new-found strength and flexibility can be used to do the things we love (surfing, for instance) but it won't make us happy on it's own. That happens on the inside. And we can use our experiences/activities/yoga poses, to turn our focus inside and learn from what information our bodies and minds are telling us right here, right now.
So this has been my theme for the week. And anyone who's been to one of my classes will have already heard me bang on about it. But this mantra has really helped me remember that I already have all the information and tools I need to find happiness inside me. Or at least, I have a lot of information that I can listen to, and that it'll teach me much more than any achievement will. It's easy to forget and to go back to shooting the ball through those ever shifting goalposts , but this simple mantra reminds us so simply and beautifully that we can learn much more along the way.
So whoever first said these wise words, my aching body salutes you. But also, if anyone's willing to offer a free massage for my post-kettle-bells-workout limbs, I won't say no...