Are you suffering from a lack of Stillness in your practice? In the consistency of our Bikram Yoga sequence there is SO MUCH FREEDOM to explore Stillness ‘in’ and ‘not in’ our postures and to realise that Stillness is SO MUCH BIGGER than the Asana practice itself and perhaps even for some it is the ultimate achievement as it is the very basis of a successful Yoga practice overall (meaning Yoga in its highest ‘mental’ form here).
IT IS DIFFICULT TO DEFINE/DESCRIBE STILLNESS IN ACTION; IT DOESN’T HAVE A ‘FORM’ OF ITS OWN. It is not simply the absence of noise and action either physical and/or mental. I believe it to be that ‘space’ of ‘no mental resistance’ and TOTAL inner awareness just before a thought forms or an essence or effort or achievement in practice is acknowledged or intellectualised or just before that point where we get a creative idea or a solution to a problem. It is who we really are when we are deeply present in the moment, who we are without our personality adornments added on. In Bikram Yogasana we have action in inaction (Stillness) and INACTION (Stillness) IN ACTION. In this context perhaps consider Stillness is that awareness of the non moving part of the movement.
When you are new practitioner all attention is usually focused on the sensation and desire for ‘movement’ and how big and deep and far you can take it… all that noise! It feels like there is no space for Stillness. It is often compelling and overwhelming for the longest time. It can be all about ‘acquiring’ pose for many when really in the early days, if it has to be about acquiring anything, it should be all about acquiring ‘technique’. Either way you don’t want your attention or focus to reside there permanently; this is just a stepping stone of your journey into Yoga and your journey to yourSelf. One day as you get stronger and acquire more control over the movement, then the attention shifts to your personal capacity for Stillness (being present, focussed and still in the moment) you will find that other capacities also expand naturally but from a different place and attitude; a place of acceptance and quietness!
STILLNESS can be ‘daunting’ and confusing’ for many; we see it all the time at YM Yoga School! We think that is why so many choose movement practices that are ‘stimulating’ (the opposite of what we are trying to achieve, the opposite of Yoga ~ nothing wrong with that per se! everything has its place ~ we just want you to notice the difference and KNOW what we are focussed on when you walk through our purple doors). Our ‘pursuit’ or ‘effort’ at Stillness ‘in’ and ‘not in’ the posture is not necessarily the easy option; we can feel very exposed! A ‘forcing a facing’ of our inner Selves can feel very existential. The way we have designed our world, the ‘what is our place in it’ and the ‘what are we without our constant movement’ in that world design: considering/asking these questions a problem in and of themselves; ignorant of the need to ask them for the longest time and when we do (and deep down we know the truth of the answer anyway and the need for change) we find it is soooo hard because we have to actively seek out the nooks and crannies (e.g. YM 🙂 ) where we can actively work on diminishing the problem. Many of the spaces we operate in daily are not conducive to that work (altho’ for the willing it can be done anywhere); it is hard to walk in somewhere new and different (YM?) so sometimes we flip the question instead (for our own ease and comfort) and start to question ‘what is the point of all this Stillness’ (instead of ‘why am I always in need of distraction’) and we choose another form of distraction instead of working on Stillness. So many exercises have hijacked the word Yoga to attach to their method this adds to the confusion about what is Yoga and even Yogasana and if not careful, passage of time and successful marketing tactic influences to the unconscious mind will actually change the definition forever (there will always be the history books for those who like to delve)… There is so much out there that can accommodate that need for distraction; but choosing constant movement is perhaps another way of ‘copping out’ of the necessary work to connect with our true Selves. BUT BE IN NO DOUBT: ‘STILLNESS OF THE BODY’ IS THE PREREQUISITE FOR A SUCCESSFUL YOGA PRACTICE. So even the Stillness is not ‘Yoga’ which is ultimately a ‘mental practice’ but being able to hold the body in Stillness is the best canvas on which the true practice of Yoga can be achieved and where you can understand the nature of your mind and being.
THE BIKRAM YOGA ENVIRONMENT IS IDEAL for acquiring this understanding and certain other techniques e.g. mindfulness, realigning, conscious breathing, meditation (remember meditation is a tool and not the goal). LISTENING to the instructor cues is one meditation that takes place here. If you are constantly thinking, anticipating or having expectation these are judgments that avoid the present moment and actually create a limitation for you. When you LEARN TO LISTEN in class, listen EVERY time, and follow (no think). Then. You simply ‘DO’. BY training your mind to listen EVERY TIME and then applying the instructions to your body ‘in its present state’ you have removed any ‘idea’ of boundaries because those boundaries you thought about in advance and then reinforced were from the past*; today there may be a ‘new boundary’ which seemed similar to before but at least it is only in the new fleeting moment and you approached it fresh without expectation.
You cultivate awareness of each moment ‘in class’: this disciplined and dedicated practice changes us and allows us to experience more and more of that awareness and it filters into other areas of our lives. Can you see another MASSIVE opportunity here? To ‘experiment’ with doing things differently in this controlled environment; to change any ‘habitual knee-jerk response to situations arising’ state which is the monkey brain controlling you and wanting to reinforce itself but you can consciously work on that too in the YM Bikram Yoga class setting.
THE PHYSICAL PRACTICE IS MERELY A ‘PRACTICAL THING’ It is a canvas on which we can uncover and reveal … You don’t want your practice to be too rigid or dutiful; that is all a bit too heavy and that too changes your experience (this is why at YM we are here ~every~ day… so you can come when suits YOUR being and the ebb and flow of YOUR rhythms of YOUR daily life. The ultimate goal of Bikram Yoga is to learn to break our attachment to fears and anxieties and limiting beliefs about our body and mind’s capabilities. Even without this ultimate personal goal the whole practice has many ‘purposes’ one can choose from.
HAVE A BIKRAM YOGA PRACTICE THAT IS REALISTIC AND RESPECTS YOUR LIMITATIONS Each Bikram class is a new dynamic and you have to establish your inner altar if you like… for that new class. It may be the same sequence (canvas) but YOU are different every day! YOUR ‘purpose’ for your practice is how you make a commitment to your practice and turning up. That purpose can and does change but you should examine regularly to make sure the practice is serving you and your spirit. YOU WILL have ‘maximum’ practice classes and you will have classes when you just need things to be simpler. If you don’t acknowledge and go along with that then you are not honouring your body, meditation isn’t happening and Stillness is eluded for another class and although there will definitely be many benefits you could have had ~So ~Much ~More from the experience.
Om Om Om There IS movement in what we do but ~ can you move with Stillness and into your True Spirit?
*injury/limitation consciousness/modification beginner aside!