My Yoga Is Not About Self-Expression

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I was reading this spot-on piece by the Babarazzi yesterday and it got me to thinking about my own yoga practice, what it is that I do, and why I do it.

Full disclosure here – Y’all know I’m an Ashtanga/Kundalini girl through and through….but, occasionally, as in every few months, I like to practice a more loose Vinyasa style. Normally on my own time, but sometimes I’ll go to a Vinyasa or Dharma class at a studio. That said, more often than not, I leave a studio Vinyasa class feeling kind of blah or annoyed, and sometimes even like I wasted my time (I know that sounds really bitchy, but I don’t really dig on sugar-coating my feelings).

Students from the Vinyasa classes I used to teach in Virginia can attest to the fact that my classes lacked the whole trance dance, zillions of handstands, wave your arms around and do whatever you want kind of vibe. My classes were fun (in my opinion) but we still worked on actual poses and did those pesky vinyasas from the floor, Ashtanga style. It’s good for you – makes you strong.

Updogs, not cobras, warriors, not crescents, navasanas, not crunches, you know?

I’ve been devotedly practicing Ashtanga long enough now that it’s sometimes hard for me to relax into the “anything goes” loosey-goosey style of Vinyasa that is very popular these days, especially in the bigger cities and the yoga festival scene. This is not to say that I’m some uptight rigid person.

I love to boogie…..on the dance floor or in my kitchen, not on my yoga mat. I love to twirl and sing and have a good time, but that’s not what I look to yoga for. I don’t need to practice yoga to express myself.

I express myself with my written words, with my fashion sense, the way I decorate my house, the art that I create, the flowers that I arrange, the collages I make, the songs that I sing, the conversations that I share. That feels like real self-expression to me.

Making a yoga pose “mine” doesn’t really do it for me. I don’t feel the need to throw by body around in order to feel free to be me. I’m me all the time. I’m so into being me so much of the time, that yoga is one of the few times when I can and need to focus on something more, something other than just being “me.”

My practice is my time to still the inner nagging, bragging, whining, worrying voices of “me” and instead just focus on the sequence, the disicipline, the dynamism and the breath. I love my practice for this very reason.

As my dear teacher Dan says, “Take a break from yourself sometimes, only then can you realize how important you really are.”

Love Frances

PS – I heart the Babarazzi. They are ballsy, intelligent and honest. They piss people off sometimes, and I’m okay with that. I do too.

PPS – That tow-headed fairy child is me. That child had and has no problem expressing herself, no sirree.

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18 thoughts on “My Yoga Is Not About Self-Expression

  1. Well said. For me it’s not so much taking a break from myself as connecting to those parts I don’t think about or focus on during my day like my breath, mind control and sitting. It’s more of a practice that us humans aren’t aware of through our day. Bringing yoga into mindfulness through the day is my ultimate goal to alway

    • Thanks Brad.
      I think we are on the same page more or less…just different choices of words.
      When I think about “taking a break from myself” it has to do with stepping back from constantly being attached to my personality, my thoughts, my ego. When I can can disconnect from that identification, that’s real yoga practice for me. That mindfulness and attention to the core self – so key.
      Thanks again for your comment and readership.
      Blessings
      F

  2. sorry you feel loosey- goosey or annoyed without the asthanga regiment.. perhaps if you slowed your mind.. paid attention and allowed yourself to be guided from within, your free-style movements may show you that you are entering the heart of yoga.. and this to me, is being guided from within, to go inside, come out from that place, and do exactly what you are prompted to do.. then you may feel less annoyed. I think yoga is exactyl to be who you are.. hopefully a peaceful, joyous being.. let it flow…

    • I think one thing I love about Ashtanga in the way that I practice it (Mysore) is that it is self-led, it’s quiet and that there is no external voice telling me what to do or constantly speaking in hopes to impart some meaning to the class.
      I find that there is just too much talking in Vinyasa classes and other popular types of flow classes….hard to slow the mind when someone is barking orders/delivering quippets all the time.
      To each his own.

  3. Hi Lila. Just visited the original post at that funny website.

    What the guy in the video was doing was no more no less than Capoeira movements. For those unfamiliar to it, I’m talking about a playful fighting art brought together with africans slaved by Europeans to Brazil, for centuries. Then today we have Capoeira and a specific type of Capoeira that is called “Capoeira de Angola”, which seems to be a more “original” approach to this ancient art. If anyone takes a look around in youtube, for example, one can easily see that the movements the guy of the video did came, plain and clear, from Capoeira. And Capoeira is, yes, a way of expression. But it is not yoga.

    If you’re thinking about expression than you’re thinking about a someone expressing something. That is not yoga. That is a self-desire of expression. Yoga is about “killing the self”, not the other way around. Try Capoeira AND Yoga, if you want. I practice both and they match wonderfully, each pratice at its time.

    • Hi there,
      You are totally right. When I watched that video, I definitely thought about Capoeira as well, especially that part when he’s moving around with another person. I’ve never done Capoeira myself, but I’ve watched it before and I think it’s fantastic. I can definitely see how the two practices complement each other well.
      Thanks for reading and for your comment.
      BLessings
      Frances

  4. I love that you articulated this. Full disclosure I frequented a great studio for years that featured this somewhat loosy goosy ‘vinyasa flow’ yoga you talk about, and I loved it. It’s a heated studio and the full experience was very refreshing and renewing. However, I have gotten into Ashtanga practice by myself the last couple years and have come to feel the same way as you about this stuff.

    They would always say stuff like “It’s YOUR practice” yada yada. How would a person ever know what to do if they wanted to practice on their own when all they ever know is a slightly different-each-time vinyasa flow class? Of course it keeps people coming back and tossing down that $19 per drop in, because replicating the studio experience is nearly impossible. Not to say there is anything wrong with going to a studio, but let’s be honest–peeps aren’t being taught to take it home with them.

    Ashtanga provides a structure for you to practice anywhere, anytime. And there IS a correct way to do a posture—there is an ideal to shoot for, and it is set at an appropriate level that the practitioner should be aware of. Of course barely anyone can do it right, especially starting out, but they should be made aware of what they are striving for.

    Ashtanga is so free of frills. So straightforward. I just love it. Breath = most important. 5 sun A’s, 5 sun B’s–appropriate warm up. Standing series–strength building. Jump through/back = crazy core work. Primary series = purifying, inward focus. Finishing series = feels so good. The totality of it is really the most complete sequencing I have found.

    • Yes there is a way out–the only way out is actually, through–as the saying goes … I have had my own home vinyasa practice for years.
      And I fairly frequently take vinyasa and/or hatha yoga at a studio. And I very occasionally used DVDs/downloads.

      The key is to author your own class-length sequence and make it roughly as intense as what is taught at the studio. Many times I was off the mark on this, but at very least, I do use classical postures as a basis; and I’ve searched more than I’ve had to, to to find a rough match on this in teachers/practices/intensities.

      I also had the luck to be able to take a Freeform Yoga Class and road-test my “choreography” in vivo.

      Home self practice is not rocket science and don’t ever let any yoga instructor convince you that it is! If you don’t know where to start, yoga teachers (for whom online streamings/online downloads have ALREADY eroded their business) are only too happy to broadcast their knowledge online (some of which is available free of charge).

    • Thanks AC for your comment.
      I too love the wholeness of an Asthanga practice. I find it to be so satisfying and I love that is pushes me to grow…to reach towards those ideals of which you speak.
      And you are so right about it being empowering to learn how to practice on your own and not feel bound to go to a studio everyday. I actually wrote awhile back a piece on tips for home practice you might enjoy –
      http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5649/8-Tips-for-a-Successful-Home-Yoga-Practice.html

      Blessings!
      F

      • hi amphibi.
        thanks for your comment. those are some good suggestions. you’re spot on – an asana practice doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective and i think that can be where a lot of aspiring home practitioners get hung up…often times the studio classes involve so many complicated transitions and extraneous movements…if you start believing that all that is essential to the practice it can be a bit intimidating to try to recreate that in your own living room, you know?
        blessings.
        f

      • I remember you blogging elsewhere as athayoganusasanam …
        Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.
        Although for a period of a year and a half–until recently–I did not take any live yoga classes until I found a certain one that met me where I was and will take that one from time to time.

        The main thing about a home practice is remembering to set an intention.
        It’s also a chance to face the fire …

      • Yes, when I started this blog in early 2011 it was called athayoganusasanam…but I changed the name last year….I think it was just too hard to spell/remember for most folks 🙂
        Thanks.
        F

  5. Pingback: Yoga as “Self Expression” is About Getting You to Buy Stuff | The Babarazzi

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