Practice Diary: Processing

It’s quite often I step back and find myself becoming cocky or arrogant about something I think is right or wrong, because usually it’s not that simple.  And I think allowing oneself to grow within a yoga practice is diving into the grey area and uncertainty.

I’m always in a state of changing my mind about what I do in and what I think about my yoga practice. It’s easy to rest in complacency, with firm beliefs about what yoga is, what your body is and isn’t capable of, and your own capacity for spiritual growth. I think it becomes counterproductive when yoga becomes a fixed system of beliefs and shapes rather than a continual process of inquiry and practice.

I’m beginning to think that a pose should be thought of as a process rather than a shape. Let me explain with crow, which I’ve been teaching this week.


It’s easy to see crow as an arm balance creating a beautiful shape elevated off the ground. However, I think it’s a bit more of that.

Crow pose is a process of slowly creating a shoulder and arm structure that can support the weight of the body, a process of developing a lift through the deep core, and a process of creating the flexibility and mobility to place the knees around the upper arm or in the armpits. Over time the movement of these component parts in that direction take flight achieving the average look of the pose (and there is only an average look of a pose, it really varies by body). From there the process continues of keeping a calm steady breath, resting the mind on the sensation of breath and physical embodiment of the pose, and the process continues perhaps into crane pose or other variations stemming from the crow. Eventually, the process continues to move slowly out of the pose without collapse or loss of breath or awareness.

Not only is the pose a process, but the pose is also a processor of physical and mental imbalances – achieving a balance of strength and flexibility and equanimity of mind.

I think that’s a better way of looking at it than “make this shape.” Also, it means that if you don’t lift up you’re still doing the pose, you’re just in a different step of the process. You may never lift up but you’re still taking part in the process wherever it meets your edge.

From this wider view, each pose or sequence of poses within a flow is an inquiry is a practice. It is not just something you do, it is something you experience. It is something you allow to process layers of body and spirit, opening up to greater joy.