A.K.A.: How Marie Kondo got into my Yoga Teaching Process, the Wholeness of Life and Creative Inspiration
I don’t usually plan what I’m going to talk about at my yoga classes in a formal way. I don’t think about a “theme” and create the practice around it. But as I teach, I realize that in my teaching on that day, there is usually a specific flow, certain poses and words that emerge. So I thought I would share my process.
One of my other big loves in life is language and writing; and one of the things that I learned from writing school is that you cannot look for inspiration only in certain places.
No, instead, the work is to find inspiration, or “material” in all of life, in the simple, mundane things as well as the dramatic stuff. To use all life as a source from which to write from.
I find that this is exactly what I do when I think about what I want to share at my weekly yoga classes. Again, this is not a conscious process – I don’t tell myself, “Oh I need to find a theme for class this week and I am considering speaking about “this” topic. What I do notice, however, is that I file away thoughts and impressions in a part of my brain and probably my heart, that emerge in the dialogue of presenting the class and in the flow itself.
And I have noticed that when comes up in this loose, organic way, is real and true, because I am almost workshopping it (to use writing speak), in that moment – it is not rehearsed.
In fact, I truly don’t know what is actually coming out of my mouth, until it does and whatever does, is definitely impacted by the energetic connection that we share as yogis and humans in a room practicing together.
Last week, I was thinking a lot about decluttering. And since I have a hard time keeping my thoughts only to myself… I shared that I recently tuned into Netflix – and the show that kept popping up in my “profile” was the Marie Kondo show on de-cluttering and organizing your life.
I watched a very little bit of it, but I’ve been a Kondo fan for a long time and read her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” when it released. I find her “method” of letting go of too much stuff liberating in so many ways; though I have a very difficult time releasing books!
However, as I pondered the idea of decluttering and only keeping things that in Kondo’s famous phrase only “spark joy,” I had an insight that impacted my yoga practice and teaching that week.
What came up was this: “what if the experiences of our life do not always spark joy? What if we cannot easily let go of experiences or people? How do we deal with this? Do we just convince ourselves to discard “this” thought, discard “that” person, if they are not serving you in a positive way? Is this possible? Does life demand more complexity than an organizing guru’s well meaning advice?
I don’t know about you, but I can tell you that while there is much about life that I can say I consciously chose, there is also a lot that is difficult and challenging. It’s the stuff I did not choose. It’s the stuff that I encounter because of relationship, because it has landed on my plate and now I must figure out how to taste it and to enjoy it without losing my zest for my whole life. It’s the stuff that I cannot donate to the nearby thrift store even though I would so love to.
I wondered, is this the purpose of our yoga practice? To accept and absorb our human-ness with all its colors, all its tastes, whether fragility, sadness, happiness, humor or sensitivity?
In that thought train, the idea of “fullness” came to me, the word in Sanskrit for full/ whole is Purna. When things are full or whole, we must meet them fully. We meet the shadow parts of our-self along with what we consider to be a more positive aspect of our-self. In this meeting, we allow our true, authentic whole self to be more free.
Our yoga practice that day emerged from that insight. I taught a class where we focused on poses that created intensity in the body, and challenged us, but we used the breath more deeply to really release, to really let go. I allowed the thoughts that I was wrestling with to color the dialogue, so our postures allowed us space and time for insight; so we could begin to view our lives again, our whole lives with more perspective and possibly more acceptance, and yes, more joy, positivity and gratitude; and possibly a pathway towards transformation.
Maybe, just maybe, in Kondo speak, I was learning how to store and to re-fold my past life a little differently. Maybe, as we stretched on our mats, we smoothed out some of the kinks and wrinkles in the inner closets of our bodies and maybe as we guided ourselves with more love and more compassion, we realized that some of those experiences that we had only looked upon with dread, actually offered some lessons and that they could even “spark joy.”
And in this process of self-examination, I realize, there are some things I turn toward to gain insights to teach my classes. Here are some.
- Books, especially poetry, but sometimes fiction and often non-fiction.
- My own practice: Can’t stress this one enough. My practice and where I am in it, informs my own teaching always. A long time ago, my husband said, “teach what you practice” and this has always been my mantra. When I stray from it, my class no longer feels authentic or real and I know then that the place I am teaching from is not pure and honest.
- Journaling: this is huge. Even a few minutes helps me to clear and clarify what I am processing.
- A walk in the neighborhood: I love mentally cataloguing the flowers and often stick my nose into one; my son does this too. I also love watching trees.
- Feeling and noticing the incoming season: this morning, I watched a flock of geese return south. Their honks were cacophonous and filled the air with energy. We watched them in awe in the early, early morning.
- Putting my son to bed at night: it is always wondrous what comes out of the mouths of our young ones.
- Eating a delicious meal with all my senses: slowing it all down, the breathing, the tasting, the experiencing.
- Lighting a candle and incense before my yoga practice and also in the evenings at home.
- From laughter.
- From tears and sadness.
- From my continued astounded-ness at the cycle of world news: My practice is often an antidote or rather a way to realize and cope with news.
- From an image or a painting.
- My studies in Ayurveda
Where do you glean inspiration from to teach your yoga classes? What do you hope to reframe in your life? Did these words spark something for you? I’d love to know. Pls do share xo