I am so grateful of the opportunities that I have had recently to work with many different people with yoga and movement: people of different ages, different levels of confidence in their physical ability, and different levels of open-ness in terms trying new things and willingness to slow down; work a little less hard. This has provided a real challenge for me, and a real reward, and has allowed me to refine exactly what it is that I enjoy and have to offer in my work as a Yoga teacher. The most rewarding experiences for me (and perhaps also for the people to whom I'm referring) have been finding people who are really daunted about attending yoga classes, perhaps coming for the first time, recovering from injury, older than the rest of the group, perceiving themselves as different in some way, perhaps nervously waiting outside the room for the class to start. Over the course of the class, everyone together, connecting with the natural flow of their breath and gentle movements, I have seen the people who were nervous at the start have a moment of true connection with themselves and others in the group. It feels to me as though their experience is a very nurturing one.
A challenging but at the same time reassuring experience has been in receiving feedback along the lines of 'this yoga is too gentle, I feel as though I could work much harder, It's not for me'. This continues to steer my path, and make it clearer to me what I would like to offer. I would much rather offer an inclusive class for a group, which doesn't make some people feel excluded due to physical ability, than perpetuate the idea that we need to be continually working harder, be gymnasts, or working towards being so, or indeed that we need to be anything other than we are, in this moment, in order to be worthy or successful in our yoga practice, or as people. I appreciate why it's appealing to work hard and explore the limits of our potential. The act of working less hard is in itself hard work for a lot of people (and I appreciate also why, when our lives, and society require us to do so, and our success may be measured on our ability to work hard). However, I believe if we can be with the challenge of slowing down, enough to notice exactly how we are in this moment, meeting ourselves where we are, rather than striving to be something other than we are, creates a happier way of being. Embracing myself exactly as I am in recent years has brought a huge relief to me, after years of dieting and exercising strenuously to the point of exhaustion. I've noticed my yoga practice has become less ambitious. I'm not sure which happened first, but I recognise the link between being much more comfortable in my own skin, and a more gentle yoga practice.
Yoga postures don't need to be impressive-looking. A lot of attention can be brought to a simple movement or posture, and that attention can connect us to ourselves. We can explore movement, mindfulness and nourish ourselves physically and emotionally, just by standing, our feet meeting the ground, our upper body meeting the sky. Feel the support of your feet, play with shifting your weight through your feet to find your centre of gravity, and once you've found it, feel a lift rising up through the body, through your spine to the crown of the head. Allow your breath to be free. Come back to yourself.