Where does curiosity lie in practice? In most movement practices, we learn by repeatedly embodying certain established forms. Yogis practice traditional postures (asana), ballet dancers work with arm and feet positions from the first to fifth, martial arts including qigong and wushu have stances mostly inspired by animals and nature.
We familiarise ourselves with these forms in hopes of deeper understanding from the outside in. They are, after all, tangible points of entry for most learners, quite necessary points in the same way we needed to understand letters and basic grammar when learning a language.
These forms are clear physical markers we can keep aspiring to achieve, however should not be mistaken as the only metric of ‘success or progress’ in practice.
Doing so will only lead to frustration as our capacity to enter these forms are largely bound by our physical build and range of motion. We can develop strength and mobility, even modify our frame to an extent by bulking up or slimming down, but we ultimately have what we have due to the finality of our musculoskeletal structure.
This is why many of us experience phases of stagnancy, being in a ‘rut’ or a falling out of love for practice. We either feel like we have ‘achieved' the aspired form, or got to a point where we felt we could not progress any further within the form.
Yet some individuals seem to be endlessly curious in their practices, whatever their discipline is. They have found a way to keep their practices interesting.
Start by recognising that postures need not be final destinations. They can be tangible starting points for us to question the physical and expressive capabilities of our body from a place of agency and autonomy.
When we think of forms as elements that constitute a roadmap for practice, we are also encouraging a less hierarchical practice by drawing focus away from a certain peak posture. We establish a more circular and cyclical relationship with practice, where emphasis is less on the arriving of postures, but an ongoing dance incorporating postures individual to our own curiosities.
Practice in this way utilises a currency we can all access.
The quality of motion is where the experience of practice can feel infinite beyond a checklist of forms to get through. If anything, it’s also more accessible precisely because its very nature of subjectivity transcends the degree of ableism in our bodies yet taps into a much deeper, instinctual incentive to move.
Beautiful moment moving with everyone at Barcelona Yoga Conference.
Think of movement as painting, through space as the canvas.
There’s a clear palette of primary colours we can start with, between which we can mix to create a new shade. Even if we stick to just one shade, say the colour red, we can also mix it with water to access a whole spectrum of red. This nuanced play of colours allow a more realistic rendering of an image on a flat canvas, all the more relevant in the context of movement where we can play with varying shades of efforts as three-dimensional beings in three dimensional space.
If you’re more logical in thought, forget painting as metaphor and consider exploring movement through effort percentages. For example, how does it feel to backbend at 20% effort as compared to 50%? They are both valid interpretations within our full scale of expression, away from the binary construct of on/off, active/passive, dis/engaged.
Think less 0/100.
Think more 0-100.
The percentages in between present great opportunities for practice, infinite in a sense where you can explore in 10s, 1s or even decimals, developing a richness of response in practice.
It is important to clarify that all of this is not just to indulge and affirm those who like a good wiggle in class. This absolutely applies to the level of agency we can find even within form, what it means to find dynamic stillness and investigate the tiniest degree of becoming upon every breath.
Ultimately, this is an invitation to practise listening to our changing states and become more sensitive and intentional in choosing our level of effort appropriate for our practice on a daily basis than to default to 100% all the time.
This is important because we quite literally become what we choose to do daily. How we choose to move daily.
The process of becoming is inevitable with the passage of time. Gravity will also always act upon us. However, we can choose to play with this process.
We can choose to be dynamically becoming.
To have greater awareness in the way we choose to move daily is to have more choice or influence over the person we become.
In physical practice, start with these questions…
How can you feel more at home within these forms?
Where can I move to from this form to find pleasure?
What do I want to feel within this form?
We will explore this in greater detail during my upcoming workshop in London…
The Dynamics of Becoming
29th July 2.30-5pm UKT
In person and online
We will look at the way in which we inhabit and pass through form. How we work with tension, gravity and speed, alongside other intangible aspects of practice that could be a little more challenging to articulate.
The workshop is particularly relevant to movers and movement teachers (of any disciplines) looking to explore and facilitate the nuances of energy, of moving between. How we can articulate the ‘vinyasa’ aspect of asana practice more tangibly without dogma as well as arbitrariness.
Leading up to the workshop, you’re also welcome to participate in my weekly classes at MISSION where I offer my signature class Beyond Asana, developed very much based on this perspective.
If you’d like to experience this from a far, check out my Beyond Asana classes on demand. Utilise SUMMER15 for discounted access valid til the end of this weekend (16 July).