Life is recognizable through expression. And all expressions are essential to experience this life fully. If we have an absolute idea of how something is supposed to be expressed, we limit the possibility and freedom of expression. And in doing so, we impose limits on ourselves and others.
There is a tribe of people in Namibia that has no word in their language for the color blue. This tribe of people lives off the land, and has many words for colors that reflect the landscape of their home and lives, like green for instance. They have many words for the color green. But beyond the sky, there is little in nature that this tribe relies on to survive that is the color of blue. So not only do they not have a word for blue, they struggle to, or do not even see the color of blue. And yet their lives are joyful, and fully expressed, as the form of their language and vision follows the function of their culture and lives.
And our yoga practice can be the very same – joyful and fully expressed through our own personal needs, expressions, and desires. If it is a desire to master headstand, then follow that desire by whatever means serves you. Maybe your constitution requires a step-by-step guide, with a partner or teacher there to support you. Or maybe your constitution allows for more free form and play as you explore bringing your body into the intended shape. The form will come when you allow the function of the exploration to be in alignment with your true nature.
The many practices of Yoga are intended to resolve and undo patterns of constriction and behaviors that prevent us from being in the highest expression of ourselves – our true nature. And that is a very personal journey. An abundance of space is needed for exploration and inquiry.
This is precisely why strict alignment cues and hands-on adjustments are not emphasized at the School of Gentle Yoga. As Leslie Kaminoff, author of Yoga Anatomy, is known for saying, we simply cannot take the intention of the practice out of the context of the body and constitution.
To say your heels must reach the floor in downward facing dog is similar to saying every river must flow north to south. And leads down a slippery slop of “should’s” and “shouldn’ts,” “always” and “never,” “right” and “wrong” philosophy that creates contraction in the most subtle layers of our bodies. In order to be doing something right, there must be the possibility of getting it wrong, and if you are absolute in your righteousness, it’s likely because you have sought and found evidence for it by making someone/something else wrong.
That form ever follows function is our guiding principle at School of Gentle Yoga. Not because it is best, or right, or the truest path, but because it is the path that allows for grace in every moment. And it allows for exploration and self-discovery. It allows for our innate gentleness to filter through, which influences our every action, thought, relationship, and the culture of our lives. Some people simply cannot yet see gentle, because it is not in their nature, or culture, to do so. Here, gentle is the foundation of our form, and the function of our lives.