Rhythm Exchange: On The Mat

Alignment is key. We’ve reminded you this fact here many times before.

Yes, asking a five-year-old to dance ecstatic and freeform flow is okay; this little being is more attuned to their body and the natural rhythms (hopefully, if they have not suffered conditioning) and so they will know how to move aligned in spirit and form.

But, as we journey on the pathway of life and experience, we develop patterns and conditioning; both physical and spiritual. And asking to freeform flow can be (as with most things) a double-edged sword. We can create new patterns, or we could subconsciously deepen the negative ways.

So, in asking for ‘rhythm exchange’, how can we let go of old habits and invite new ones in whilst on the mat?

Simple ways to play with the exchange:

  • Play with new dristhi (gazepoints). So, in Warrior 2, traditionally we are encouraged to gaze toward the front middle finger. How about trying to keep the head neutral and just look to the side wall? How does this change the experience? Can you feel less tension in the neck and jaw? Is it easier to pause the line of sight, or are your eyes enticed to wander?

  • Play with the pulsation of breath. Can you mix it up? In Warrior 2, do you need to stay so static? Or can you straighten and bend your front leg with the breath? Maybe to each pulsation? Or how about you pause for a certain number of breaths, then return? How does the energy shift? What felt like effort? What felt smooth and of service?

  • Undoing old patterns; observe how you transition into poses. Is your Chaturanga Dandasana always full of strain; are you dumping into the chest and letting it fall to close to the earth? How about you change it up? Take Astanga Pranamasana instead? Or some other variation? Can you change it up, so it feels more aligned with the breath, less strenuous on the joints? Letting go of what you believe a krama (sequence) should include, and instead feeling into what is appropriate for your body.

  • Likewise, if a normal Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) is part of your practice; are you dancing these poses with robotic ignorance? If so, can you change it up? Make it your own? Just because a sheet of paper tells you this is THE sequence; does that mean it’s appropriate for you today? Maybe tomorrow you can try something different; a knee down, a new arm gesture, moving on the exhale instead of the inhale…whatever, just shift it and see. How does it feel different? What are the outcomes? Can you be okay to let go of your patterns? Your expectations? Your judgements? Is it exciting or dull? Are you scared or hungry for the change?

  • Start with a Savasana (corpse pose) or thread some in between postures. How does that feel? Don’t be too rigid with it. Just allow the body to surrender when it needs it. How does that affect the energy field? The vibration of breath?

  • Incorporate some chanting and meditation throughout practice. In our yin sessions we chant and play with lots of different meditations throughout; not just on the first and last pose. Feel into the practice. Maybe your body has fallen into Utthitta Trikonanasa (extended triangle) and you begin to chant? Even just a sweet ‘aum’? How has that shifted it?

Yes, what we are practicing is an ancient ritual. And yoga has stood the test of time. This art is thousands of years old and was practiced in ancient Egypt and classical India and China. It serves people of all walks of life, at all ages and experience.

Modern Yoga tends to be rigid though. We all believe there are certain ways to ‘perform’ the postures; maybe even certain sequences to play with.

But change is part of life.

Whilst repetition is key to experiencing soul over intellect, there is something magical about taking the poses ‘out of the box’ and sprinkling tiny seeds of change into them. Literally breathing new life into the postures. Seeing the experience with new perspective.

And when we can be okay with experiencing change on the mat, we find we can handles the change beyond the edges more easily.

At first, you may be resistant to these small exchanges. Or you may crave them and be creating some new ballet-yoga-dance-freeform style. But seek balance. Maybe change the practice day-to-day. One day rigid and static, the next freeform and overflowing with change.

Play. And play light.