It was an intense 16 hours of yoga this weekend here in the Wood River Valley. Rodney Yee and his wife Colleen Saidman Yee came to teach a weekend workshop in Ketchum. I was very interested in taking both the advanced track of yoga sessions and the all-levels track of yoga sessions. This translated out to 5 hours on Friday, 5.5 on Saturday and 5.5 on Sunday. Naturally, I am still processing. The advanced sessions came before the all-levels sessions. For the first portion of the advanced session, they focused on intricate and precise details of breathing exercises. I noticed in the all-levels sessions which followed, Rodney and Colleen (who seamlessly co-teach) would direct the inhale and exhale in a similar, but more general way with less focus on multiple details progressively. I connected this to a theme that Rodney offered multiple times throughout the weekend: moving from the gross to the subtle.
I have pages of notes pouring out of my body since the weekend. I do not take notes during workshops in order to pay more attention in my body. I have a tendency to overthink. So after these sessions, I was mentally reviewing what we had done so that I could write it down. This turned out to be a great memorization tool which also deepened my focus during the sessions.
As a transition from most poses, they asked us to perform Baddha Konasana and Dandasana, two seated positions. (Soles of the feet together, knees wide, and soles of the feet extending away from you, legs on the ground). They would say them quickly and also call out the next pose. Most often I would do them quickly and get to the next pose. 15 hours in to practicing this way, I realized I wasn’t paying attention to these transitional poses. I was rushing through them. It would take no effort at all to perform them with precision and focus. I was simply not being present in the practice. As I began to spread my toes and allow my feet to connect and then ground my heels and pull my toes back toward my face for each transition, my mind was able to absorb into the poses and the nuanced cues I was being given. My body could pulse as a field in challenging poses and simple ones.
This idea that our practice becomes more subtle and nuanced, more like a dance is available in every aspect of the journey. When we first start moving our bodies and coordinating them in new ways, it is enough to know where to put each part. We then begin to understand the muscle movement and alignment of the bones. Rodney referred to this as being with the gross body and the gross aspects of the practice. To move in to the subtle realms we have to choose to pay attention and be mindful of how we practice, how we breathe, and how we focus. It is possible to practice for an extended amount of time and miss the subtle aspects of the practice. When these aspects become the priority we are able to access our humble nature and compassion. We are less likely to say we are addicted to yoga or discover that we are irritable without it. Instead our commentary will sound more like we are dedicated to yoga and that it teaches us how to be in the world outside of the classroom.