The principles that we worked with seemed simple enough, gentle breath, release into your base, let gravity take over and move with the wave like feeling encountered by the body. With great kindness and tenderness the guiding principles were repeated to us as a reminder over and over again.
This was particularly helpful to those of us whose attention may have started to wander from time to time. We were encouraged to ‘play’ with the posture, to have fun with it, to be inquisitive and approach each posture as if it was the first time that we had ever done it. Listening to the breath and paying attention to what the body was telling us was key to the practice. Release, relax move with the breath and let the natural intelligence of the body take over.
Attending each other’s sessions, Sandra and Michal were very observant and attentive with their students. Often a gentle touch would help to awaken parts of the body which were stiff and unyielding due to the accumulation of tension. Michal often started off the sessions with a sequence of movements which helped us to prepare the body. At times she incorporated small movements which had profound effects on the body’s ability to release into more challenging postures.
However, we as a group also felt privileged as Sandra shared some of her memories of her years spent as a student with her teacher Vanda Scaravelli in Italy. Perhaps the spirit of togetherness enhanced by the magic of the Scottish countryside really did allow for an opening in lots of different ways body, mind and soul. We were intrigued as Sandra described the room in which Vanda taught with its bookcase, bed and grand piano. With great cheerfulness Sandra recounted Vanda’s repeated instructions whereby she had to bring her focus to the ‘heels, heels heels.”
Like a flower on a palm
Undoing is like a distant star, you can't see it if you stare it. Let your eyes rest in the sky, take just a little peek, and there it is. Helsinki, Finland in March. Temperature – 7 Celsius. Spring is late this year. Roads are icy and snowy. In the traffic knot of the town, Kamppi, you'll find a nest of warmth and joy. On an orange-colored floor a dozen of smiley people are doing yoga exercises in a sparkling tune with happy feet and toes.
It is quite easy to reach the idea of lightness with our Italian teacher Sandra Sabatini, but how about practicing alone? In the cold, dark, icy land? How to maintain this lightness and playful attitude? "There is something that relates lightness to the sun and the hours of light. But I feel that the lightness comes from our capacity to have inner sun that shines all the time, which doesn't mean that we are always happy. It's more about being closer to the lightness that life brings about and maybe a bit distance from the difficulties", says Sandra.
We are at the same time very tired of being heavy and very unwilling to drop it. It is somehow easier to continue travelling as usual than find new approaches to become lighter. It's difficult to open your eyes. "This kind of heaviness prevents us from smiling at the child that walks by, or smiling at the leaf that falls of the tree, or just sitting for two seconds and watching a cat that is happily sitting in the sun."
Making a hole It is a practice, because we all travel with backpacks and we are in a way very fond of them. The lightness we find in the practice yoga, it comes when you have dropped a lot of unnecessary knowledge, unnecessary burdens, unnecessary competition and unnecessary struggle.
Practicing is learning to make a hole in this backpack we travel with, so that slowly, slowly things just drop out of the backpack. And in the end the pack is empty. Then we can travel lighter and with more smiles." To live lighter is to live in between the Earth and the Sky.
Practice the breath, feel the ground, no hurry, no aim, no rush.' It was very difficult at the beginning - very, very difficult, because I couldn't understand what she was talking about. Literally yes, but to feel it in my own body, it took me months, if not years to understand that there is an inner rhythm and that following the rhythm is not that you are not doing anything, but you are just moving in a different way and you are interested in other things. And it was also looking at life from a completely different point of view." Undoing is the key word. And it is not something you practice on your sofa while watching TV.
Undoing is something very physical and connected to the power of the exhalation. The power of exhalation is cleaning, purifying, carrying out so much stuff. And when I say stuff, I don't only mean emotions, I mean pollution, nastiness, everything. We are like sponges, we absorb everything and if we keep that everything it is no wonder that we are so heavy, so negative, so reluctant to do something positive or beautiful."
New green sprouts
We could live more adventurously! We could abandon a little bit of cynicism and have more fun. Even in yoga.
I think we keep forgetting that the best learning happens when we are completely empty. When we are innocent, we are like a child that is brought to the sea and sees the sea for the first time. It comes from a sense of wonder; it comes from a sense of being surprised of something. Not so much by wanting, not so much by filling the head up with more and more notions. There is a need to go back to a state of receptivity that we have lost."