Go with the Flow
When yoga postures are linked together sequentially into a nearly continuous flow of movement, it’s called vinyasa-style practice. Vinyasa is so popular that many people don’t realise there’s any other way to do yoga. Moving quickly from pose to pose can amp yoga up into a better workout, but that’s not it’s most salient effect. Rather, the constant flow between postures induces a kind of liminal state; a feeling of always being in transition and never quite arriving. Experiencing this in your body helps your mind learn to cope with life’s inevitable fluctuations. By flowing, we learn to go with the flow.
The More We Flow Together
In a led flow class, the teacher decides which poses come next in the sequence. By taking the class, the students tacitly agree to become followers for its duration. That means that for 60 to 90 minutes, the responsibility for path-finding rests on someone else’s shoulders. It’s an unexpected relief to loosen your grip on the controls and just respond to what is offered.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should blindly do everything just exactly as your teacher says. When each pose is presented, you have an opportunity to respond to it intellectually and instinctually. Often the intellectual reaction is an internal narration along the lines of: ‘I love this’, ‘I’m freaked out’, or ‘I can’t do it’. Observe these responses but don’t get attached to them.
The instinctual response is felt physically. It tells you whether to try the pose, modify it, skip it, or go foetal (aka Child’s Pose). All are valid options, made in the blink of an eye using the best information your body can gather at the moment. The class is moving along so before you have a chance to overanalyse, you’re already going with your gut. You’re honing your intuition.
Many people are intimidated by the idea of doing yoga on their own because they don’t know what to do when they get on the mat. When you’re starting out, you can plan sequences in advance, and even have a destination or peak pose in mind from the start. It’s fine to make a plan, but also give it some space so that it can breathe and evolve.
In yoga, we often say listen to your body. That’s always good advice, but there’s actually another channel that kicks on when you allow your body to lead, relinquishing the dominance of the mind and letting the body steer the ship. Spontaneous flow offers the opportunity to tune in to what your body wants at a base, physical level and move like no one’s watching.
When you feel frozen, overwhelmed, unable to deal with change, in need of a way forward, head to your mat for a bit of flow time. Where your body goes, your mind can follow. You don’t get stuck in a rut when you are a stream.
Video featuring Yogini Tamara Levinson @cuchira