Reflections Task 22 and Task 23 – Merge seeing with felt sense

Dear Maria,

Thanks for the Task, no need to apologise.

It feels somewhat ironic that you should present me with a task to study how my practice looks on a week where I cannot even touch my toes. It was a week that was marked by challenging circumstances: illness (flu, first my daughter, then me) very little sleep (due to the former), spraining my back (due to both) and travelling back and fro to Norway by car/ferry which made time limited. I spent the first four days thinking about the task as I was not able to practice. Saturday afternoon I mustered enough time and energy to test it but never got to the ‘corrections’ part. I therefore send an apology back to you – I simply have not been able to carry out the Task the way you asked me to.

Task 22 Corrections

I decide to stick to the Ashtanga sequence as a barometer for my practice and begin my Sun Salutations – I have my camera set up to take photos every 5 sec to capture the progression of my postures, alignment etc. As expected the practice is very difficult and painful but as is always the case when injured/sick I am hyper-aware of my body and the practice feels very fulfilling. My attention bounces between my back, my head and my joints, connecting me with sensation and the internal spaces in my body. It brings up images of joints and muscles working together, blood carrying oxygen around my body and nerve endings that are overstimulated. I realise I have no interest in the camera nor in the photos that will come out of it –perhaps because I know what they will show: a decrepit woman doing half-versions of postures in an Ashtanga sequence.

When I look back at the images, the postures are hardly recognisable. It makes me smile, as there is a direct relationship between how I feel in the practice and how it looks: pretty awful.


Task 23 – Merge seeing with felt sense

I was sad not to have completed your Task 22 and am happy to repeat again next week in its entirety if you feel that would be interesting.

Personally, I feel it is very useful to be made aware of how postures look. As you mention yourself, the function of a teacher is for her/him to see you from the outside and when practicing yoga on your own, the focus become inwards directed and some attention to the ‘form’ of postures is lost.

But is it an objectification of the body to look at it from the outside, like you mention? Does using vision always mean judging or objectifying? Is there a way of looking at the postures where seeing is merged with the kinaesthetic intelligence experienced in the body?

In other words, could the felt experience of the posture harmonise with a visual impression or simply add another dimension?

Your Task for this week is to start like Task 22: Practise postures and make a record of them on video/photos. Continue by studying the visual material but instead of looking for areas that can be improved, merge your ‘seeing’ with the felt sense in the body when you were doing the postures. Maybe your reflections can be a poetic rendition of what happens in this space between seeing and sensing.

Reflections on Task 21 and Task 22 – Corrections (with apologies)

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 21. In the following you can read about the process and below there is a link with some visual responses to the task. Then, there are the instructions to the next task.

Task 21 proved a lot more difficult than I expected. In a less known publication, The Art of Yoga (1984), Iyengar notes how he saw yoga postures in his surroundings, such as sculptures and iconography in temples and caves. He also talks about the postures figuratively, for example he refers to Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)  as the Scales of Justice (Iyengar 1984:42). In a respect, he did something very similar to what we have been exploring: he saw the shapes of postures in both everyday and religious objects. So, I expected that I also would be able to recognise postures everywhere. To my surprise, I wasn’t.

On Wednesday and Thursday all I could do was look bewitched at the snow. By Friday,  I began wondering whether there are any caves in Leeds or whether I should go searching for a Hindu temple. I dismayed that the exercise was pointless, the snow had simply coated everything. I look more intensely: the trammelled snow, the  pasta in my bowl, the soap in the sink, the chimneys, the cars, a piece of string.

Frustrated I  cannot see anything remotely resembling a yoga posture. I try a different angle. Maybe I should not be looking for shapes after all; maybe I should be looking for sensations and movements that somehow resonate with the inner sensations generated by the practice of different postures. This does not yield any results either. I run out of time.

By Saturday morning,  I begin to get worried. Armed with my phone, I go out determined to find these images no matter what. 

Perhaps a more assertive attitude, a sharpened intentionality, or simply fear that come Monday I would still be empty handed, opens my perception a bit more.

Reflections Task 21

I go back home and I practise these postures. But I do not so much think of this practice as an instantiation of the object I photographed. I am thinking more about the end result: how we, the object and I, can fit together in one frame. And here is a word I often feel when I work outside: I want to merge with my surroundings. An impossible thing in reality, I try to realise this longing by merging the images.

Yet, make no mistake: the images are also strategically superimposed to cover deficiencies in my practice. And this brought me to the next task and to a place I wish we had not reached.

Task 22 – Corrections

There was often bewilderment and frustration, when I was taking yoga classes. My teacher’s instruction to stretch more, to turn more, to do whatever more, felt absurd: but I am turning, stretching, pressing, lifting. And yet, there was more space, there was more movement. Since I stopped taking yoga classes, I work with a knowledge of how things feel and how they are supposed to feel. I do not know how they look. And I never wanted to.

I always thought that looking at the posture from the outside leads to an objectification of the body and to an attitude that focuses too much on technical perfection rather than kinesthetic intelligence. So, when I had to look at photos of my postures for Task 21, I did not like what I saw and I did not like that I did not like what I saw. The postures simply felt much better than how they looked. This not only hurt my ego; it also opened up a methodological question I thought I had answered. Long ago I had decided to trust the body, its impulses, its responses, its yearnings as a way to navigate reality. This project is part of this wider decision.

The photos were deeply unsettling, therefore, because they showed that things, and my body included, do not look the way I think. Actors have this problem often, but so I think everybody else. So here we are. In one of his most famous quotes, Wittgenstein argues that ‘a main cause of philosophical disease is an unbalanced diet: one nourishes one’s thinking with one kind of example’. So heeding Wittgenstein’s advice, I am asking you to do something I would never have thought I would ask you to do.

Pick a series of postures. Practise them while you take stills or a video recording of them. Study the visual material and look for areas where the posture can be improved. Identify specific things you think can be worked on more in each posture and do the postures again. You can bring back any aspect of this process to the Blog.



Call for a co-editor of this Blog

We are currently seeking a new member to join the editorial team of the TDPT Blog,

Associated with the influential journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, published by Routledge, the blog’s interactive presence is designed to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training.

Now entering its third year, our blog has been highly successful in engaging new audiences for the TDPT journal, creating an online space that promotes spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. As we grow further it will represent a productive and discursive teaching ‘tool’ – or forum – within all levels of education and training preoccupied with dance, performance and theatre.

This opportunity will offer the chance to develop your own networks with scholars and practitioners, as well as contribute to the shape and direction of contemporary discussions on training.

We invite applications from researchers from any stage of their career, but especially Post-Graduate Research Students and Early Career Researchers who are actively seeking to develop their research and practice networks.  We also encourage those with an active interest in Practice-based research and/or Live Art, and those who have familiarity with editing audio-visual material.  As we are seeking to broaden our outlook and audience, we are interested to connect with scholars who reside outside England but above all we are looking for a team member who is highly organised, can work well in a team, and has a passion for the field of theatre, dance, and performance training.

The successful applicant will participate in regular Skype meetings with the Blog team to discuss the administration of the site and curation of posts.  They will also seek out new content from practitioners and scholars and liaise with these authors throughout the content-making process.  Such content may take the form of writing, photo essays, audio-visual files, and/or other innovative approaches. Applicants should be comfortable with editing and curating such content.

For further information, please contact blog editors, James McLaughlin, (University of Greenwich), Bryan Brown, (University of Exeter), or Maria Kapsali, (University of Leeds).
To apply, please send a one-page statement of your relevant skills, interests and aspirations for the journal with an accompanying CV to James McLaughlin, by Monday, 9 April, 2018.