Reflections on Task 13 and Task 14 – The Dance of the Skin

Dear Marie,

many thanks for Task 13. It offers an opportunity to look back. Below are my reflections and further below you can find Task 14. We agreed to take a break from the project for Christmas, so reflections on Task 14 and Task 15 will be posted on Monday the 15th of January.

Reflections on Task 13 

I only looked at my own responses and there are several themes, which also resonate with key aspects of yoga practice in and oft itself.

Iteration: There is a sense of ‘repetition with difference’ in the tasks and sometimes tasks evolve from previous ones. If anything, iteration is the very building block of yoga practice. Same poses – in your case – the exact same poses are practised every day, often at the same time and same place, but the  body – self is different. The weather is different too.

Time: This is an important aspect for me, and it underlies this project in a number of ways: taking the time to do the tasks; changing one’s very experience of time (and of what is important and what is not) by doing yoga. I feel yoga produces an experience of time as duration, whereas dance, especially contemporary, prioritises an experience of time as speed. Time as a good we have little of and yoga, indeed this project as a whole, as an alchemical process that changes the very consistency of time.

Language: I feel language, both written and verbal,  is a key part of this project, although we have not directly reflected on it. I can neither see you, nor hear you. I can only read your words and write mine. I can translate my experiences in different mediums, but ultimately, they will be shaped in some kind of linguistic reflection. I hope you understand and if you do not, then that the mis-understandings will be useful too.

Background and foreground: I find that I often refer in the posts to fleeting moments, moments that stand out from the flow of experience. Perhaps, this is what I think ‘discovery’ feels like.  There is a sense of background, how something appears against something else. The two are co-constitutive: what is experienced as a background comes to be experienced as background only when something stands out from it. Something can stand out only in relation to something else. I have a hunch that this relationship can be shifted, but I am not sure what would be the result or value of such shift.

What is my yoga practice?: It is funny, but I have never asked my self this, at least not in a certain way. I ask the question less in the sense of what comprises my yoga practice, i.e. what my yoga practice is made of and more in the sense of what my yoga practice means to me. And the first thing I can say, is that it is a need. I do not think I am alone in this. I have heard other practitioners refer to their practice in similar terms. And this reminds me of Silvia Prescott‘s  suspicion of any attachment, and her advice not to be attached even to our own practice: ‘what will you do’ she would often ask ‘if one day you won’t be able to do yoga?’. Let’s come back to this…but later…I can’ t deal with this question now.

Task 14 – The Dance of the Skin

The skin is an important, if slightly mystical aspect of Iyengar Yoga. Iyengar would often bring attention to the movement of the skin and how it can guide the practitioner: is the skin stretching? Is it relaxing? Does it follow a particular direction? So here is the task: 

Take 2-3 hot water bottles and attach them to different parts of your body. You would need to wear at least one layer, otherwise the touch of the bottles on your skin will be uncomfortable. Keep exposed parts of the skin that do not need to be covered, such as the hands, the face, even the arms. Go outside on a cold day wearing as little as you can, having the water bottles on. Open up to the sensations of the skin and the extremes in temperature. Move in response to these sensations. 

Once back inside, do your yoga practice and note if the skin is more prominent in your awareness. See after how many days, hours, minutes this awareness begins to recede. I hope you enjoy.

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