- Alicia Waters
Presence Over Performance: How My Practice is Changing
Maybe it's just the corners of the internet that I hang out in, but I've been witnessing a lot of deeper inquiry about the state of modern yoga practice lately. To me, this is a great thing! I'm always up for reflection, curiosity, and review of what we're up to as humans and why. Give me a juicy question any day.
This trend that I'm seeing is really encouraging to me - I've been transparent over the last few years about how my practice has been evolving. In short: I found that I couldn't practice the way that I used to...chasing "progress" and complicated shapes wasn't translating into a better quality of life. Even sitting quietly in my meditation practice, as I was taught, until the chimes of my timer would ring wasn't bringing satisfaction, other than being able to cross "meditation" off of my to-do list.
Something was amiss.
And it's not only me feeling this way. I hear it all the time from my students who are long-term yoga practitioners: the practice feels stale, they're uninspired, the magic is gone.
So I did a little inquiry of my own. I thought: "The practice itself can't be the problem. I can't believe that a rich, transcendent spiritual tradition dating back thousands of years with hundreds of lineages that has inspired countless life-long practitioners would lose its appeal for the modern, Western yogi after just a few years... At least, not if we're doing it right." Aha.
It's not yoga that's missing the mark, it's us.
So I started asking myself those juicy questions:
- What are the true cornerstones of a yoga practice? What makes it yoga versus a workout or a personal development program?
- What is the heart of the practice? Is that universal? Or are there qualities that are particularly meaningful in the context of my own experience?
- How are the techniques I'm using - both on my own mat and when I get up in front of a room to teach - serving the heart of the practice and serving others to understand and approach the heart of the practice? Or not? Where are those techniques actually pointing to something else?
- How will I know when I'm "hitting the mark"? What tangible effects on the body / mind / spirit would a genuine yoga practice produce over time? Am I seeing those effects in myself and my students?
I don't have the answers to all these questions. They're big, complex questions, and many of them overlap and influence each other. I'm not even sure there is such a thing as *the* answers to those types of questions...
But it's still been worth asking, because over months of doing my best to respond, I've come up with some of *my* answers. At least for now ;)
I'm moving away from performance and towards presence.
Nowadays, I approach every aspect of my practice as a relationship. Good relationships require listening, attentiveness, and making yourself available. Show up distracted and just go through the motions, and your relationship (of any kind) will suffer.
I'm feeling my body.
Less and less am I looking outside myself for directions on how and when to move, to feel, to process, to learn. I see my body as my sacred vessel for grounding lofty concepts like peace, oneness, contentment into a tangible, living, breathing, human experience. This is a more somatic approach than I originally learned in yoga classes - perceiving my body from the inside out instead of an object to be aligned and trained and improved.
I'm standing in my own authority and worth.
This is a tough one for me. As I've taken a magnifying lens to my own practice - including my motivations and expectations that live there - I've noticed how attached I am to doing the "right" thing, how I tend to look outside myself for answers about what I "should" do. I know this has close ties to the cultural systems that we live in, and how those systems showed up in my individual life lessons. For now, just naming that attachment feels like it creates enough space to make a new choice.
Again, these are (some of) my answers. There is so much more I could say about each one, but for now I'm much more interested in leaving the questions with you.
Do the questions resonate? Do they feel exciting? Intimidating?
And if you decide to take any of these questions on for yourself, I would love to hear *your* answers. Be in touch.