Listening to the Little Things We've "Never" Heard in our Yoga Practice by Kerry Craig
There are all kinds of sayings out there about how the little things affect us or how we sometimes don't even notice things when they're right in front of us. The Buddha says, "Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man gathering it little by little, fills himself with good." Or, as we sometimes say in other cases, "I totally missed the forest for the trees!"
A solid yoga routine is a great thing. We get to our mat, the heat and poses begin their work and we devote ourselves with rigour. But, being human, we can fall into a bit of auto-pilot here and there. Yoga torpor! Then, somehow, we snap out of it and it happens-I hear a part of the dialogue I've "never" heard before during practice. Like the tree, it was always there in the forest. Like the drop of water, it was always there to help me fill my practice with goodness.
Here are a few of those "little things" I "never" heard even though I have heard them over the years. You've probably heard them when I haven't and doubtless there are some I've heard that you missed! Here are a few observations of "little" things I've heard over the recent months.
Yep, Savasana, right? Dead body pose. Still as the grave without being in the grave. Who’d a thunk it. But there it was. "Put your chin down a little so you can get your neck as flat to the floor as possible." Good stuff! Still relaxed as death but not forgetting a little tweak that can help other postures. That small change with my neck has helped my stillness even more during savasana.
Okay, yep, right leg. Pulled that in tight. Hold it. Then left leg. Yeah. Got it. Both legs together and gather those limbs in tight so you can grab your elbows. Over the years, it has just become easier to grab both legs but NOT bring those knees TIGHT together. Woof. What a difference! Now I hear it! "Hold those knees together." Try it. You’ll notice a big difference in the effort and stillness of the last part of that pose.
Okay, a bit more truth here. I’ve been like a mad mechanic with this pose lately. It’s all taken apart and laying out in front of me, ready for reassembly. I got lazy
somehow and my “...spine upright” turned more into a “bent snag leaning and about to fall.” So many factors in keeping that spine straight in the center but my biggest has been setting down deep enough and staying down so my thigh is horizontal to the floor then carefully moving my spine to a straight position. For me, with my current body (aren't we always changing?), I really feel that upright spine in my hamstrings as I hold then move my arms. Good stuff.
Fixed Firm, Half-Tortoise, and Camel
We’re in the floor series, starting at Fixed Firm pose (Supta Vajrasana). As you know, we do these poses and our teachers say “change” bringing us out of the pose and in that process, they say, “Stop in the middle” or “Spine straight” then they say, “Turn around, relax in savasana.”
Here’s the revelation of late: I listen to that “Stop in the middle” and take the several second pause, sit upright, and let my spine coalesce all those wonderful vertebrae back into place before I turn and drop into my well-earned savasana. No more rush…no more trying to be first, just smooth, thoughtful transition. It's made a huge difference in my practice.
Yay! We're at Rabbit! Class is moving right along. Excited to put my towel over my heels, grip them and get this pose done. I mean, only two more poses left then breathing, right? Well, hold on a minute! Over the years, I've gripped my heels and just slowly rolled forward to get my forehead to my knees and hold the pose. What did I hear recently that is changing the pose? "Pull on your heels as you bend forward." Yes, Kerry, pull, as in PULL. Not hang on lightly and bend forward. That "unheard direction," that little bit of engagement is having a big impact on the efficacy of that pose, letting me gently ease the top of my head to the floor. And, just as carefully, I PULL on my heels to raise myself back up.
These are just a few of the "little" things that I've heard in recent months during my practice. What about you? Do you notice how habit creeps in and "erases" some of the instructors' directions? I love forcing myself to be present and really listen so I can grab those little drops of water and refocus on those trees in the forest and gain a better practice day over day. If you have questions, make sure you ask one of our excellent teachers after class...they've got the training and experience to take us over small or large hurdles. And remember:
perfection is elusive; practice is always there!
by Kerry Craig
Long-time Original Hot Yoga practitioner // Rockstar Student at Hot Yoga NorthWest