For me, a yoga practice is technical, durational and alchemical. The myriad experiences and distractions of daily life can leave me feeling scattered and disorganized. I turn towards structural habits to protect and potentiate myself.
Many seek ways to define or describe yoga. I understand yoga to be a very broad category for many types of practices that combine concepts of mind, bodily comportment, and breath. Of course all of these concepts are inextricably, physically linked. By mind, I mean imagination, narrative and metaphor. Bodily comportment can be about shapes, moving through shapes, or approaching stillness. Breath is all about timing; the breath works as a metronome, enabling one to manipulate timing, measure, and duration. Combined awareness of these facets of being enables the practitioner to make choices about being with life as it is; without intervention, or changing one’s circumstances through use of technique.
Katonah Yoga offers a frame that can be applied to an ashtanga or kundalini practice, to swimming laps, hiking in the woods or smoking a cigarette. It is a way of organizing embodied narrative and can be used in conversation with almost any activity a person engages in.
One’s body is not a project or a problem. It is the place each of us is always (and already) living from. Embodied practice can turn us toward that reality and away from tendencies to dissociate. To live in each of our changing, growing, yearning, dying, aging bodies is to be in touch with what is profoundly human. Practice is not to degrade oneself or aggrandize oneself, but to find the complexity of life as it is on a human scale.
Headshot credit: Alex Kikis, courtesy of The Studio.
Illustration: Nevine Michaan, Katonah Yoga®, 2017 © Katonah Yoga Center, Inc., www.katonahyoga.com, Illustrator Susan Fierro.