What is flow yoga?


Many of the classes on my schedule are some variety of a flow class. On one level that simply means that the transitions between postures are valued, and we work to find a healthy and productive balance between movement and stillness. But, digging deeper, I think that finding flow may be the most important part of the practice, and that doesn’t mean we have to keep moving. It means that through the practice, both on and off the mat, we learn to accept and work with the ups and downs of life. We no longer resist and hope to change the things we cannot, we accept and flow with the good and bad.

The scientific fact that the universe, to oversimplify, is just an arrangement of energy is explored through many yogic texts. We’re implored to ride the waves of this energy, without resistance or attachment to good or bad waves (again this is all oversimplification). However, this does not mean we just flop about like drunk holidayers destined to have a face plant. This is not complacence or laziness.

As I’m told, when surfing waves, you learn quickly which ones to take and which ones to let go on without you. You learn how to support yourself and stay upright riding the wave and how to gracefully exit.  For my own purposes, I like to think of riding the waves on a jet ski – meaning I have a bit of control, consciousness and clarity, but still have to ride the general currents. Sometimes they will be good, sometimes they will be bad.

If we resist the direction our life is taking us, we’re sure to encounter the painful friction of resistance. There are always signals and signs that we’re moving in the right or wrong direction, but if we’re listening to hard enough to hear them, we often don’t act on them. Practically, within posture practice, we have a bit of rehearsal of learning to interact with waves of energy both internally and externally generated. We move our body as an expression of how our body feels and what it needs therapeutically on any given day. Â We move our body and our breath to provide support and comfort through the negative waves and strength and confidence to hold on to the positive waves. This posture practice helps bring us the awareness and practical techniques to face the more important challenges off the mat.

Try these step to seek flow within your practice:

  1. Ride waves of breath and energy. Inhales usually lead to opening, release and expansion, exhales to closing, supporting and contraction.
  2. Try a new way of moving from one pose to another.
  3. Ask yourself if the pose you’re about to do is resisting where your energy wants to go today. Are you just plowing ahead, or backing off because that’s your habit?
  4. Remember that the transition is also a pose, requiring as much focus, breath, and curiosity
  5. Move on your mat with no set direction or posture – just see what happens. Don’t be embarassed.

When we come to the close of our practice, in savasana or meditation, it’s very tempting and easy to think that everything has stopped. That the flow has ceased. But actually, I think coming into stillness is coming into the most powerful relationship with flow – to the power and movement of the universe. Erich Schiffman says it best:

Stillness is like a perfectly centered top, spinning so fast it appears motionless. It appears this way not because it isn’t moving, but because it’s spinning at full speed. Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in – when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.

This is a tall order, but an intelligent flow practice can help move us in this direction.