Over the last year I’ve actively looked to take my yoga practice deeper. I’ve been drawn in by mentions of the 8 Limbs of Yoga (of which, asana, the physical practice, is number three of the eight), the Yoga Sutras, breath work and the idea of living a more “yogic lifestyle.” This has come from my teachers with references in class and in a little more detail on various wellness blogs I’ve sought out over this time. After having built up strength, gaining a little more flexibility and playing around with some new poses in class, I’ve wanted to try advancing to some longer holds or arm balances. I feel like I’m ready to begin. Even though I might not be up in headstand next month – or even the next six months – I can start preparing for it.
While I was thinking about this post, I initially thought I would focus primarily on an amazing workshop I took at The Mat on The Bhagavad Gita. The class was with the inspiring Manorama about getting in touch with your inner warrior through the text (with the added benefit of learning a little Sanskrit). But as I kept thinking about this workshop and trying to frame a post…I returned instead to all the workshops I’ve attended and those I’m looking forward to, and how much they have to offer the student at any level.
Many studios will offer workshops on both the physical and the philosophical aspects of yoga. A workshop can be a great way to learn more advanced poses and the varying levels of modifications to work up to that challenging asana. Workshops that introduce or go deeper into yoga’s history and philosophy are a fantastic way to go beyond the physical to the other benefits yoga offers. As I reflected on this, there were three common benefits I found participating in workshops: Mind, Body and Community. It’s also these three aspects that I hope to explore further with this blog series.
“It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.”
– Anonymous, The Bhagavad Gita
(Chapter 3, verse 35).
This year I have been fortunate to attend several workshops at The Mat where I learned more about the history of yoga, the Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Like with any discipline a student wants to go further in, history is such an important starting point. Yes, yoga teaches us to be present in class, but if we let it, yoga can also teach us to be present in our lives off the mat, to listen to the cues from our body, to listen to our thoughts and maybe, if necessary, begin to adjust those thoughts away from the negative. Like any mythology, there is so much symbolism in the stories that teach life lessons. Or from these stories, we are given the tools to handle the challenges our own lives put in our path.
It’s not always easy to try out a new pose in class. Whether it’s a fear of falling or a fear of “not-quite-doing-it-right.” Even starting with modifications to move up to the full pose, it can still be daunting to try it out that first time or the still-wobbly ninth time. But when you have a workshop tailored to something like arm balances or hip openers, much of the lead-up flow is to prepare you specifically for that particular inversion or balance. In workshops tailored to something specific like this, you’ll often get close individual attention and adjustments, which can lead to a little more confidence in an All Level flow to practice the modification that is right for you and your body on that day (because let’s face it, some days your body may need a little more love and TLC than others).
Some workshops may also center around nutrition and fueling the body with energizing foods. I’ve grown up a vegetarian/pescetarian, but over the last year I’ve definitely become more aware of the types of non-meat foods that I eat. If I can learn more about what foods are nutritious, filling and energizing, sign me up!
So many times we hurry to class and then hurry home to continue about our day. I know, because I’ve been guilty of that. There may only be smiles and a few nods of greeting as we pass our classmates in the halls or in the studio collecting blocks and blankets. But when you’re sitting on your mat next to your fellow students in a two hour long workshop, you have the opportunity to get beyond the small talk, to hear their stories and what was it about this workshop that interested them. The workshop itself can be a jumping off point in the halls for continued conversation and getting beyond that quick “hello.”
I’ve been fortunate to find that Dallas has such a thriving yoga community. The workshops I’ve seen in Dallas and the events stemming from yoga practices in parks all over the community, to special events like Yoga on the Bridge with the Trinity Commons Foundation or the Wanderlust 108 festival, are such welcome and amazing opportunities to grow and to meet other people who are just as interested in yoga as you are. And I think I – we – can only grow from these experiences.