When I first began to practice and then to teach yoga eight years ago, I was understandably enthusiastic and admittedly naive. I thought my life had been changed for the better FOREVER. I was intent on studying and teaching therapeutically minded, vigorous and heart opening yoga that I was sure would help my students as much as I felt it helped me at the time. Nine years later, my practice and teaching have changed immensely, and through a variety of injuries attained and healed, physical achievements met (and then met with a desire for more), and successes and heartbreaks both on and off the mat, I have begun to actually learn the value of evolving with a practice that supports the whole person, not just their muscle tone, flexibility or ability to achieve some temporary and surface notion of “inner peace”. In other words, I have re-oriented my view.
The word paravrtti (pa ra vrit tee) is often used in yoga asana to refer to the act of revolution in a posture (as in revolved triangle - paravrtti trikonasana). In looking at Buddhist texts, it can also mean to to transform or re-orient one’s view radically; so radically that it can refer to the actual process of enlightenment…
I’d like to take the concept down to earth and discuss the paravrtti of one’s own practice and LIFE. The question I ask myself each day as I step to the mat, sit on the cushion, plan a class, or even communicate: "How can I meet myself and others with humor and compassion, yet consistently challenge and require the greatest amount of self-inquriy so that we can all benefit from this exchange?“ Who knew that was going to be a thing I asked myself often? The paravrtti, or radical re-orientation of our view in ANYTHING comes from the act of asking ourselves to wake up. Again and again. This can be an incredibly re-orienting (and sometimes disorienting) process that is also, at its essence, quite painful, because it asks us to let go of the ways that we fixate. How do we keep waking up? By lightening up.
Last night I had the pleasure of taking class from an amazing and humble gentleman, Gabriel Halpern. His theme in class was "slacken the reigns” (read, LIGHTEN UP). He mentioned the notion that our practice should be serious but the attitude on and off the mat should be to “slacken the reigns”. We approach everything so tightly and with so much fixation. Even our yoga practice, which is meant to create a sense of balancing opposites, can become too tight, too rigid or too aggressive. Perhaps this resonates with you??
One of the things I have learned through the process of developing Breakti® is that in order for this practice to evolve, I cannot fixate on ANYTHING. Not one thing. In addition, if I lose a sense of humor, all else is also lost. My process has been slow and careful, despite being pulled in different directions to quicken the pace. The more that I work through the material over time with care and patience, the more I find freedom in letting go of old rigid ideas of what a practice should be.
Paravrtti is to revolve, but it is also to evolve. To evolve requires fluidity, grace and humor. When we get stuck in fixation, nothing is moving, the air is stale and we feel trapped in the sense of deluded comfort we get from believing our ideas to be solid and permanent.
Can you sense the areas of your own life or practice where you hold on with white knuckles and grit your teeth? What would it feel like to let things go a bit, to release the grip and lighten up? Yes, it feels incredibly scary, but I choose the wind in my hair, just over the speed limit and cruising in the sunshine over a sterile and stale safe windowless room any day.