Every body benefits from time spent in gentle practice.
What does that mean exactly? It’s a nice, catchy tag line, but how can a blanket statement like that apply to EVERY body?
Let me share one of my favorite teaching moments with you to explain what that line means to me, and why I use it to help promote School of Gentle Yoga trainings.
I am occasionally asked to participate in various teacher trainings in my community to share my philosophy of Gentle Yoga. Most recently I was asked to teach a session for a hot, power vinyasa training. And while that may seem like an odd fit, my answer is always yes to these opportunities. Any chance to show that Gentle Yoga is so much more than modified, easy yoga, I am in!
When I arrived, I was greeted with kind indifference. The students were wrapping up a break, and it took several attempts to get their attention and prepare them for a practice. Speaking amongst themselves, one student commented that she was ready to do something easy like Gentle Yoga. I smiled, took a deep breath, and asked them once again to clear their mat space and prepare to practice.
Practice began lying down, with a deep, conscious experience of the breath. As the minutes passed, I could see each of them becoming more present in their practice. As we progressed into asana, that presence deepened as they flowed in and out of the movements, guided by the quality of their breath. Standing now, they moved in rhythm and harmony as their patterns of breathing began to sync, and their movements became meditations. Long held poses became opportunities to refine and deepen the balance between effort and ease ~ sthira and sukha.
It never fails to move me when I see the benefits of a gentle practice take hold. The ability to practice deeply while always maintaining a connection to the breath. The ability to move in and out of potentially challenging asanas with grace and ease because the balance between breath and body is firmly established. I see it in my classes at the senior center, and I witnessed it with this group of young, healthy, fit yogis. Yoga does not discriminate. Every body can access the deep grace and peace of the practice; whether moving through vigorous and challenging standing asanas, or while lying on mats, moving all that is accessible to move.
As class concluded with a salutation, I invited them to take a short break before moving on to our lecture. No one moved. They each had that glazed look of deep peace. And began to spontaneously share their experience with each other. In turn, every student in the room commented on having touched a place within that was new to them. In their own words, they had never had such a connection to their breath, and all the benefits that allows. They had never had the balance to move through flows with their eyes closed, and feel deeply rooted. And in Savasana, each student expressed going so deeply within to almost feel as though they were asleep, while still being fully conscious and aware. Bliss!
This led to an enthusiastic and engaging lecture. As we discussed their preconceived notions of Gentle Yoga, it became clear that there is a stigma and perceived lack of value to the practice. One of the students then shared that she had almost left as our session began. And asked, what would I have done if she had walked out. “Not take it personally,” was my response. Never take responsibility for someone’s experience or practice. We are responsible for student’s safety and wellbeing in class, but never for their experience. Even if someone comes to you and says your class changed their life – that’s not about you.
It’s about the yoga, and the access each person gives to the yoga. It is my belief, my philosophy, that Gentle Yoga gives us an expanded access to practice – a greater entry point. Whether you are fully healthy and able-bodied, or limited by age or illness, there is a way in that will take you beyond the physical benefits into the subtle bliss point within. There is a gentle practice that will both challenge and calm, stimulate and soothe. All leading to that bliss point that inspires you to look around the room and say “Wow!”
Welcome to Gentle Yoga. Learn more about our upcoming Yoga Teacher Training here.