Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cold Comfort for Change Exchange

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Source Yoga Studios in Winnipeg to train with a fabulously compassionate and caring teacher by the name of Dillon Cherrett. (As some of you may know,  Dillon has been my teacher for several years now. Access the Source Yoga studio schedule here)  The training was a 9-day intensive for yoga bodywork, which is derived from Thai massage. I've worked with Dillon in this modality over the past few years and was ready to dig deeply into this treatment in preparation for offering this service to others. I was excited to go!

I love Winnipeg! The restaurants are diverse and delicious, the green spaces throughout the city are gorgeous and I was invited to stay with my very close friends, known for their silly shenanigans. I belly laugh every time we are together. Everything about this trip screamed benevolence.

As part of the teacher training we were expected to attend Dillon's Sridaiva yoga class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The Sridaiva method is in its infancy and concentrates on opening the back body. Now, when I say "back body" I will take the liberty of assuming that many reading this will only read "back" as in the tailbone to the base of the skull. This is one of the most - if not the most - common areas of complaint for many. But the Shridaiva method energizes the back body, meaning from the sole of the foot (yes! the sole of the foot is included in the back body!), through the calves, into the hamstrings, focusing on an anterior tilt to the pelvis in order to extend up through the spine to the base of the skull. In effect, Sridaiva opens the front body by enlivening the back body.  I call it "yoga for Westerners" because it counteracts much of what we do throughout our day - sitting hunched over our computer, standing hunched over our phone, sitting hunched towards the steering wheel of a car and effectively closing the front body. Sounds good, right? It is. BUT I find it an extremely uncomfortable practice - physically, mentally and energetically. It is a marked change from my "normal" practice of sun salutations, downward facing dogs, triangles and the like. And as such, I struggled with the change.

Sridaiva, Day #1: A very physical struggle. The poses are demanding. My physical awareness is challenged to activate the gluteal by grounding down into the "magic button" - the space on the ball of the foot between the big toe mound and second toe and the golden ticket in this practice. This button is magic because it then allows the legs to root down into the earth in order to open the heart to the sky. I'll take Dillon's word for it - I'm still trying to find the magic of this button. Don't even ask me if I breathed during this practice. I'm alive, so my assumption is that I did but I have no recollection of being aware of it.

Sridaiva, Day #2: Adding the mental struggle to the physical one. The advantage today over previous practice is that I now know what to expect in this class. Part of the challenge is understanding how to activate the verbal cues. In other words, how to get the mind and the body on the same page. I tend to feel stupid and helpless when I cannot make this connection and my insecurities begin to surface. Put bluntly, I feel vulnerable. This class cracked this feeling wide open for me, surfacing in the form of tears streaming down my face throughout the practice. Something is moving. Energy is moving. Ahhh, the release feels divine.

Sridaiva, Day #3: There was laughter in class today. Unlike the last class with unfettered tears, this class was fraught with unfettered hysterics. These exploits at the back of the class (instigated by yours truly) commenced when Dillon commented on our "Stiffy Stifferton" attitudes in class. He was seeing our furrowed eyebrows as we tried to follow the class cues. He saw the corners of our mouths stiffen while we activated the magic button. The lift in our shoulders, the dropping of our chins and the general lack of flow in our bodies were telltale signs of our over-efforting. The joy of this movement was lost on such serious students. Leave it to laughter to loosen us all up. Smiles always brighten a studio.

Note: I generally place my mat front and center, eager to learn and practice. In this class, however, I found myself in the second to back row of the class. Hmmm...something to think about in the context of learning this practice. 

Sridaiva, Day #4: They say you have to do something for 21-28 days to create a habit. I would take issue with this "fact." I think it largely depends on the mindset of the practitioner. A couple of years ago I was given several 21-day meditation sadhana practices. With the end of each 3-week-long daily practice session came the end of my meditation "habit."Why? Because each session was a mental challenge that I was not ready to accept. My attitude going into each sit was one of hassle; of having to meditate as an "assignment." When my assignment was done, so was I.  But by practice #4 of Sridaiva I do believe I was hooked. My body felt more open, as did my heart and my mind. I felt like I was learning more about my Self. Mentally I was ready for this challenge. I recognized the worth in re-establishing my beginner's mind. Clearly, I had more to learn and was ready for the lesson.

I've brought a Sridaiva session home with me in the form of an audio cd. I am excited about exploring more on my mat in new ways, learning and growing. I am at the very beginning of this practice - still concentrating on the physical cues, still trying to remember to breath as I move. I am a beginner again, exchanging the comfort of my previous practice for the challenge of change and the opportunity for growth. I've gotta take the risk to reap the rewards.

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