One of the sweetest means of sharing yourself is to take a close friend or family member to your yoga class.
It is an intimate, wordless experience. Bodies, breath and thoughts focus on the asana and let go of the daily preoccupations of life. Each yogi has to allow the sloughing away of tight muscles, over-full brains and restricted breathing. As the yoga practice continues, the deeper layers of resistance come to the foreground. A good teacher will challenge each student to bring their full selves into the pose work.
You might catch a glimpse of your relative at his or her deepest pose, free from restrictions, and know her in a new way. Since each yogi brings her entire being into each asana body armouring is cracked. Between those cracks you will see the softness and beauty of the interior Self.
Partners come to class and assist each other in finding the depth of the poses when the teacher calls for that sort of supported partner work. Daughters and mothers see how to guide each other wordlessly to knowing oneself and each other in the fullness of the body’s intelligence. Daughters and fathers develop a new appreciation for each others’ flexibility, stamina and strength.
In many yoga classes in our studio, mothers and their adolescent and adult children enjoy the discoveries they are making. A father and his son come to be challenged together to work on similar body issues. A three generation family grouping comes because each wanted yoga in their life but needed support to fulfill their deep calling. Two sisters come for completely different reasons yet both find what they are looking for in yoga.
My friend tells the story of his introduction to yoga by his daughter. She insisted, after a day of climbing in the Rocky Mountains near Canmore, that they go, with her daughter, to a class. He resisted but eventually agreed. His apprehension was eased by their companionship. During that first class he would look toward them to make sense of the teacher’s instructions. And as his first class progressed he began to enjoy the beautiful symmetry of the three generations of family all facing the same challenges. He found his yoga was about claiming his aging body’s wisdom and capacity. He was amazed to discover that what came easily to him was beyond his granddaughter’s reach. Her flexibility echoed his in his youth. Back in Nanaimo, he practices what he learned in class, knowing that his family members are also on their mats . Yoga provides a thread of connection even at a distance.
Often the teacher will see genetic and learned body holding patterns in family members. The cock of a head to one side indicates incipient neck and shoulder problems. Rounding in the upper back points to tightness across the upper chest causing breath restrictions. Standing with one leg out to the side and hanging out in the opposite hip is a female pattern of holding the pelvis out of balance. An exaggerated lumbar curve will challenge one to lengthen and support the low back to prevent sciatic pain.
Family members mention," Dad’s arthritis" or "Mum’s bad back" and we discuss prevention and management of various conditions that the body has developed over a lifetime.
When friends and family members come to know themselves and each other through the practice of yoga, their common bond deepens and expands.
Kelly Murphy is owner of Bend Over Backwards Yoga Studio in Nanaimo. Visit her website at: www.iyengaryogananaimo.com