I went out looking for the forest but all I found were 10,000 trees. I mean seriously, folks, 10,000 trees. I try to stay focused but metamorphosis is complicated and I am reminded again and again of something the great Price Pritchett said in his book, you2 (that’s “You Squared” not “U2”). He said quit trying harder.
Earlier this week someone complained to the manager of one of the clubs I teach at that my class is “not normal yoga”. I had a feeling that something was up when she told me the same thing in her best derisive tone about 5 minutes before rolling up her mat and walking out. So, she tells my manager “DeAnna’s class is not normal yoga” and he tells her, “No shit, genius.” and that’s why we get along.
Is PiYo like “normal” yoga? Nooooooo, that’s why it’s called PiYo and not yoga.
Which brings me to my next point, to say that this or that is “not normal yoga” implies to me that her definition of yoga evidently differs from mine, and maybe from yours too. I’m not into boundaries and boxes, I am unconcerned with uniforms and name tags.
This thing that I teach, this PiYo is, in fact, only supposed to resemble yoga. It is designed for the mainstream, the description in the packaging clearly states that PiYo is a non-spiritual approach to mind/body exercise. Now, don’t get all pee-pee-hearted with me for saying this but I have to call bullshit on that one. There is no such thing as a non-spiritual approach, because we’re not robots. All of us who are brave and/or crazy enough to put ourselves out there as teachers do so with an approach that reflects our personal beliefs. All of our participants who drag themselves out of bed and down to the gym first thing in the morning do so because of a belief system that tells them it’s worth while. The notion of a non-spiritual approach is a poison apple.
I would like to throw two ideas out on the table: one, that trying harder only pays off if you are employing the most effective method and, two, that your physical practice is only as strong as your mental practice can support.
I’ve written about this topic before and here we go again. Isn’t yoga supposed to be a metaphor for life? If so, then what makes it yoga? Is it being barefoot? Is it Lulu Lemon pants? Is it dim lights? Blocks, straps and blankets? Chanty music? If I speak to you in my best monotonous drone, is it yoga now? What if you have all of these things and it still isn’t or what if you have none of them and it is? Is yoga an outfit and a set of poses? Uh-oh, what if it’s not? What if it’s not any of those things because what it actually is is a mental practice? Calm breath, focused, observant and responsive state of mind: this is what we seek to achieve and the appearances of yoga are just that; appearances. Stay with me now, what if you can take this “yoga mindset” into any physical practice? I propose to you that a good way to build the yoga mindset muscle is to push the limits of your physical practice. Anyone can stay calm and focused while sitting on the floor in a quiet room but what about after transitioning from crescent to warrior 3 eight times in a row? How about when you’re late and stuck in traffic? What about when your plans crash and burn? How calm are you now? What are the voices saying to you now? Are they still calm, do they say things like “Today I do my personal best. I stay calm and observe, but do not cling to, the emotions that I experience” or do they start saying things like “I’m not as skinny as that girl over there. I have terrible balance! I suck at this! I’m too incompetent to be here!” Suddenly, we’re not in Kansas anymore but did the workout cease being yoga or did letting go of the yoga mindset cause us to fall into a chaotic state? Think about that. Forcing the body into challenging poses really means nothing, accomplishes nothing, without the support of the internal condition. The physical practice of yoga, PiYo, Turbo Kick, Hip Hop Hustle or any workout provides a safe environment to practice the mindset with which you will approach all situations. You can go as far down this rabbit hole as you like but I’m just going to say this: the body responds to what the mind tells it and the mind speaks loudest in the voice it uses the most. Do you come to yoga to work on developing your negative self image? Go to the gym to cultivate angry thoughts? Turn everything into an imaginary competition that can never be won? Certainly that isn’t yoga, but what can you expect to change on the outside without first getting a grip on what happens on the inside? The outside mirrors the inside and never the other way around. If you want to make exponential progress in your physical practice then start by conditioning the mental practice to support working on a higher plane.
I am re-reading this after having just got off the phone with my PR agent. Without provocation or even knowing what I was working on today he said, “you have to condition yourself to operate on a higher plane.”
When the universe offers free advice, listen.
You can’t see the forest from the ground.