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May 2017 - Refreshing Your Practice

Dear Yoga Friends,

If you practice yoga most days, you are fortunate and are undoubtedly reaping benefits. Maybe you practice to maintain health, to regain health, to heal injuries, to build strength, to build flexibility, to find balance, to calm down, to gain energy, to explore possibilites and effects of poses, to find peace, to meditate, for other reasons, or any combination of these. I have noticed in my own practice that I am often drawn towards familiar poses that offer me quick relief or solace. This is particularly true if I have aggravated an old injury or am going after an area of recurring tension.

Inevitably comes a morning when I find myself returning to the familiar, or to a lingering injury, and no inspiration comes forth. It just feels like I'm going nowhere. What to do? Maybe go to a class? But what to do in that moment? My teacher Manouso once said something relevant to this that grabbed my attention. He said that if you ever start to feel bored with your practice or are looking to get some enthusiasm back, one approach is to "try something fancy". He said that it didn't have to be shared with anyone else and could be something playful that you are doing just for yourself.

In another class, Manouso talked about a teacher in Pune named Shah, who demonstrated dropping down from full arm balance into Pincha Mayurasana (peacock feather pose, or forearm balance). Now I have not yet been able to go very far in backbends, forward bends, fancy padmasana poses, and many other categories of asana, but that particular move from handstand to forearm balance sounded like something I might be able to learn to do. So I spent a year or so working on it during part of my practice, really just for fun. At first at the wall, collapsing in a laughing heap on the way down, but eventually getting to the point where I could do it in balance (some of the time anyway). This has little to do with inner peace or meditation, but having a fun project like this did help me gather more enthusiasm for the rest of my practice. It also forced me to work harder on fixing a shoulder injury resulting from a fall in the mountains a few years back.

I enjoy stories about children's classes in Pune and elsewhere, which are so playful and lively. As we deepen our practice as adults it can help to retain some of the that lightness. Your own thoughts and insights appreciated as always!



Chad Balch