many thanks for Task 25. As the task necessitated the involvement of another person, below you can find my reflections and the reflections of my friend, Dimitris, who joined me in the last part of the task. Below these, you can find task 26.
Dimitris and I trained together in Iyengar Yoga for a couple of years in early 2000s and he has been following our project for some time. When I last spoke to him in summer 2017, he was eager to re-connect with his yoga practice. Dimitris has been living in a Christian Orthodox monastery for four years now. He is therefore aware of the Orthodox Church’s position that condemned yoga as ‘incompatible with the Christian Orthodox faith’ (Savvidis in protothema.gr, 21/06/2015). In a comment he made on task 20, he invited us to: ‘Do the next task as if you were living in a monastery where yoga is considered demonic and while you are doing it say the names of the poses loudly!!!!’. So when we connected on Sunday the 15th of April through WhatsApp, Dimitris and I shared a common practice, which proved very influential for us both, but were in diametrically opposite cultural contexts, at least in terms of yoga. My culture is one that has embraced yoga and turned into a staple of ‘busy’ western lifestyle. Dimitris’s environment – to put it mildly – has remained immune to such influences. I practise in my bedroom overlooking the drive of a quiet northern English urban street; Dimitris practises in one of the storerooms of the monastery overlooking the Aegean sea.
After some deliberation, we decided to do the following five postures:
- Setu Badha Savargasana , supported.
- Downward Dog x2
- Trikonasana x2
- Parsvokonasana x2
Going against the convention we have followed so far, i.e. addressing our reflections to each other, Dimitris’s reflections are addressed to me and my reflections are addressed to him. Both texts are below in italic.
I feel grateful for the chance you gave me to collaborate in this task.
The part of practicing together at the same time was a great motivation for me, because I haven’t practised for very long and it was something I really needed to do, but I wouldn’t do it by myself. So, the highlights of practising together definitely are this great motivation to practise. Secondly, it was really beneficial that I had to keep myself in a specific and well timed sequence because I usually have a very vague and chaotic way of practising. Thirdly, I felt it as a very nice personal communication with you in a such unique way. Fourthly I had a glimpse of being in a yoga class, an experience which I miss a lot!!!
On the part on practising the sequence by myself I focused a lot on how setu bandha savargasana supported adhomuka svanasana when done in this order. I am so amazed by the fact that setu bandha makes my body do such a better dog pose. So inspired from that I tried to bring the feeling of setu bandha in all the asanas of the sequence and indeed it was so successful!!!!!! I was very happy and amazed. I don’t know if this effect happens due to my specific body needs or that it can be generalised…. It would be very interesting if you try as well and tell me.
In terms of the second part of the task, to imagine that someone observes, I chose to imagine to be observed by a friend who is an osteopath and I am planning to collaborate with her in order to apply osteopathic treatment on the body while doing asanas. Although throughout the practice I kept reminding myself that I am being observed, this didn’t influence my practice, because I was very concentrated on the practice itself and on the fascinating investigations of how the setu bandha feeling influences the rest of the asanas.
Thank’s again a lot for giving me this beautiful chance of distance training – practising. I have never imagined how nice it can be.
many thanks for agreeing to do this task with me. It felt as a way of (re)connecting with you and did take me back to the classes we used to attend together 15 years ago. I did not like the idea of starting with Setu Badha Savargasana, but I did enjoy having my practice hijacked/altered/influenced by you. The practice of the remaining postures had a more focused quality than usually. Every time I found I had slipped into a mechanical execution of the movements, I thought of you in two dimensions, simultaneously: one was the present we were sharing during the very moment of the practice. The other was the past. I would imagine that I was in a yoga class and you were somewhere nearby in the studio, totally absorbed in your doing.
Both of these helped me staying present. A particularly strong moment was in the end when I stood in Tadasana looking out to the familiar view of my window. There was both a sense of inhabiting my body – in that moment, in that position – as well as a sense of dispersing, extending into space and time, becoming relevant to someone else. I think what I am trying to say is that, after years of solitary practice, I felt in someone’s company.
Task 26: Make Your Own Yoga Posture (MYOYP)
I have been thinking for some time the wider questions and legal battles that have emerged in relation to yoga copyright: who owns it, who can make a claim and eventually money out of it, who is its rightful proprietor? The radical differences between my and Dimitris’s environs also makes me wonder about the cultural context in which the practice is situated, grows, and changes. Finally, I got inspired by the work of Polly Penrose, who created a series of photographs of her own yoga postures.
So your task is to create a set of 3-5 yoga postures that are new, i.e. not part of the existing syllabi, and relate to your everyday environment. You have to name the postures and practise them for a few days, before you bring back your reflections to the Blog. You do not have to do the postures naked, unless you want to!