Look a the photo above and the photos at the bottom, everyone laughing. Thats my measure of success in a class...oh and if no-one dies, thats a bonus too.
I’ve been trying to untangle the events of Sunday, I talked about magic in my blog last time and it seemed, to me at least, that it was a very magical session. Its just a fluke I thought at first, just the energy in the room so, I spent most of yesterday trying to untangle the class and what happened
I’m starting to truly believe that the REAL potential benefits of a yoga class don’t come from anything that we ‘think’ it does. I’m one hundred percent sure that the number of people who find their back pain is helped by the asana are outweighed by those that aren’t; I’m equally sure that the few whose anxiety or other mental pain is eased by meditation is outweighed by those that just don’t get it or find it too much to be with themselves and never come back.
The process isn’t the problem, if you stuck with it for long enough you might eventually find something, you might not, but really I just think that we aren’t hitting on the things that people truly need from our classes.
I am certainly not saying I’ve got the answers, just a flawed opinion as ever, but I want to try to describe the method behind my madness. On Sunday I guided a 40 minute, breakneck, full throttle class of seventy people I’d never met, at a wonderful charity event organized by good friends in Bristol.
I wanted it to be 40 minutes of PURE YOGA ----- Yoga in its truest sense – YOKING, CONNECTION absolutely NO SEPARATION. In forty minutes.
Connection to OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER – so we threw away the mats immediately, get rid of those islands, they literally make me shrivel up inside to see everyone metaphorically isolating themselves. I’ll do stuff that doesn’t need mats. Simple solution.
We crawled and walked with eyes closed for five minutes; my favourite exercise, totally relaxed in breath and body, allowing ourselves to bump into other humans and forbidden to say ‘Oh ooh I’m sorry!’ if we did. For gods sake we are human, we bump into another human or brush past them and the whole world tenses up. You can feel the room slowly let go of their tension, you remind them to relax their hands, to stop feeling their way, to drop their shoulders, to settle their breath, they bump a few times and realize ‘Hey, it’s not that bad, nobody died and nobody punched me!’ You feel the entire room become grounded.
I asked them to dance, to choose the person nearest to them and then if they knew them to turn and face someone they didn’t know, To CONNECT WITH A STRANGER. This took 5 seconds, why? No time to be anxious. Anxiety involves projecting into the future, simply remove the future and drag everyone into the now. No time for anxiety. They then led each other in spontaneous ways in an infectious magical dancing shuffle to some infectious magical music.
It's ten minutes later, we have connected to PLAY, to have FUN; spiritual people would call it the INNER CHILD, I call it arsing about, being normal humans together and laughing about life. It’s not hard, you don’t need to do a ceremony to connect with the inner child, you just connect because its already there, bubbling just under the surface; it wants to play, and it sees the rest of the room have and no one has had time to be shy, so you just join in and Suddenly…WHOOOSH…the inner child is out and then all hell breaks loose and I can sit back.,,. This beautiful old Chapel, once a place of worship, is a place of worship again ….. FULL TO THE RAFTERS WITH LAUGHTER. And heat. So much energy being released, so much heat you could feel it as you opened the door. And what was generating this heat?? CONNECTION.
To achieve things fast you need to go outside the box, sometimes so far outside the box no one else has the faintest idea where the box is – that’s a concern for later, if ever.
So I played all week with props, small props, light and easy to carry for seventy people, props to create spontaneity, challenge, fun, laughter and connection. Props that could be used with a partner or alone. What did I come up with? Tissues!
I’ve added a little video, though it doesn’t quite capture what I felt watching a room full of adults playing, and yes I even included some asana in there to keep everyone happy, in case they doubted that this was yoga! But asana with tissues J
I did lose count of the number of teachers who said ‘I’m gonna use that in my class this week’. That means it hit a chord, there was a resonance, probably unexplainable, it wasn’t the tissue, it was what they facilitated – PLAY, CONNECTION, LAUGHTER, PRESENCE, LETTING GO.
But if one person does it and says, ‘You know what. I’m saying that this is yoga and I don’t give a f&*% if you don’t buy that, cos we are doing it anyway-because I, really, truly believe it works. In fact I believe it is more functional than 108 sun salutations in silence, because you know what we are with ourselves in our own head all day and I don’t believe that another 108 x 4 minutes is gonna do anything to help that’
Someone else, a past student and a friend came up and said to me, 'You're always just winging it aren't you!?' and the truth is yes, i totally am, I was making up parts of that class as we went along. 80 percent of it i'd never even tried before. But there is such fun in winging it and just accepting that you're winging it and letting people know you are winging it. I think there was a moment when i took a bit of video and shouted 'I've got to catch this I never thought it would work!' Truth i the whole world is winging it, we are just terrified that we will get rumbled at some time. No-one knows what they are doing really, we are all just doing our best to muddle along and maybe do some good while we are at it.
And that is why, I am not averse to styles or systems, to asana or pranayama, to qi gong or karate, to Buddhism, Christianity or any other religion, but why I will never settle on, or conform to any one thing. Because they all have magic, but it can get lost in the practice and there is so much more magic out there when you open up to combining them with a catalyst like a simple box of tissues and all of a sudden you have rocket fuelled connection…….and yes the the tissues did get recycled before I get lynched.