Reading Vanda Scaravelli’s Awakening The Spine, I was struck by one of her opening thoughts on page 15:
Why Are We Doing Yoga?
For health reasons? Perhaps a walk in the park would be better. To help someone else? There are so many ways of helping people. To make money? This is surely not the best way? Out of a sense of duty and discipline? Or for some obligation towards ourselves coming from our puritanical background?
No, nothing of the kind, No motivation, no aims, only an agreeable appointment for the body to look forward to. We do it for the fun of it.
To twist, stretch and move around, is pleasant and enjoyable, a body holiday. There is an unexpected delight in meeting earth and sky at the same moment…..
Of course, people practice yoga for differing reasons. I have written many posts on attentive practice of yoga; how small and, often, very subtle very changes to the way we sense ourselves can yield great benefits to mind and body. The last sentence from the above quote evokes a sense of change in how we move – a useful goal for most of us. To make good footprints with feet that can adapt to movement and changing circumstances. To balance our musculature by finding balance through the bones. Vanda, also hints at curiosity I think. That’s why we re-visit the yoga mat; the yoga class – exploring, discovering a sense of well-being and, hopefully, enjoying “the ride”.
Change is not always easy.
The science of well-being is very much in the news these days. Yale’s most popular class ever is commonly known as The Happiness Course. The course, taught by Professor Laurie Santos, , tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures. The course focuses both on positive psychology — the characteristics that allow humans to flourish, according to Dr. Santos — and behavioural change, or how to live by those lessons in real life. However, Dr. Santos refers to her course as the “hardest class at Yale”:
To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day, she said.
Sounds tough but remaining curious enough to allow real change to occur is tough. In Awakening the Spine, Vanda encourages us to practice yoga with an inquiring, questioning brain…”with a healthy curiosity there will be freedom to explore, freedom to understand…” (p74). Later in the book she urges us to retain the mind of a beginner – free of habits. I am lucky to practice with students who do question and this helps me as a teacher.
Dr Santos has developed a 10-week online course. I have just enrolled on the free non-certificated course. The bulk of content is in weeks 2-6 but the course is flexible and can be completed at each individual’s pace. This course will take me through the summer break and is the “homework” that I referred to in class this week. You thought that I was joking??
Enjoy the ride.