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.

Reflections on Task 9 + Task 10 – Words that move you

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 9. Here are my reflections. Below them you can find my Task 10.

Reflections on Task 9 – Do as you normally do

After the first day of practicing I sat down to document the order of Asanas to make sure I’d remember the sequence for the following day. I looked over it swiftly before my practice on Day 2 and after practicing on Day 3 I started to add some thoughts.

When I described the task to my partner Alan, who also practices yoga, he suggested that I could record my sensory experience as I do the practice: what I see, smell and hear, as an alternative to the more subjective somatic approach of interpreting what’s going on in the body. I decided to give this a go and copied and pasted the order of postures in Sanskrit and added the moments of perception next to the Asana as they stood out for me as I practiced:

Day 1

Green mat, ‘What are we doing?’ Alan asks.
3 x Surya Namaskara A synchronised breath.
2 x Surya Namaskara B
Padanghustasana unsynchronised breath.
Trikonasana
Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana shuffle back, giggles.
Sirsasana
My foot slips off my leggings Vrkasana
Surya Namaskara A
Ardha Kapotasana
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana I look over to Alan
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
Soft rug Savasana

I was interested in trying out the obstruction that Alan had mentioned but then something caught my attention when I was recording my sensory experience in relation to the posture names. The Sanskrit language of yoga speaks to my senses in a completely different way to the language of English. When I read English, I take on board a meaning of a word or entire sentence through a ‘mental’ cognition. My knowledge of Sanskrit is mainly limited to posture (Asana) names. For that reason, the Sanskrit names of postures do not provide me with a sense of ‘mental’ understanding but give me pictures in my mind and often bodily sensations. I read ‘Padanghustasana’ and I feel my head hanging down and my fingers wrapped around my toes and my belly gently touching my thighs. I read ‘Purvattanasana’ and I see the transition from Paschimottanasana and feel my body stiffen and the stretch over my shoulders as it recalls the effort to lift my hips.

           

Day 2

I’m blinded by big overhead lights 3 x Surya Namaskara A.
Loud Danish kids’ songs.
2 x Surya Namaskara B I try to hear my breath.
Parents looking at phones or minding smaller children.
Padanghustasana
Trikonasana A small boy. I smile at him.
A gust of air as Lisa runs past me.
Alan’s hands on my shoulders Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Silence for a moment Padottanasana then more loud music echoing with the sound of feet running in the hall. The small boy in my vision again.
Sirsasana the sound of a ball hitting the ground
Vrkasana
Lisa interrupts me with a big gym ball. I help her do backwards walkover over the ball.
Lisa on exercise bike.
Surya Namaskara
Ardha Kapotasana A child is crying.
Paschimottanasana
I ask Alan to take a few photos of me Purvattanasana.
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana I look into the bright light again. A ball rolls behind.
I lay down Savasana Something flies over my head. I get up.

The juxtaposition of Sanskrit and English became an oscillation between a bodily and mental experience of the practice, of feeling and experiencing postures in Sanskrit through my body and perceiving the surroundings in English through my senses.

Day 3

I take off my glasses. Blurred room.
3 x Surya Namaskara A
2 x Surya Namaskara B
A sweet smell of ice cream. Lisa shrieks with joy.
Padanghustasana ‘Wheels on the bus go round and round.’
The door goes, my dad enters.
Trikonasana ‘How did it go?’ I ask.
Parvritta Trikonasana His account of events.
Parsvakonasana
I gaze towards my fingertips and just see a blur.
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana My dad: ‘That’s very impressive Marie’.
Sirsasana
Vrkasana Fridge door opens – a bottle is being opened. Footsteps: ‘is it not beer o’clock?’ Laughter. Alan and my dad both cheer.
Ardha Kapotasana
The door to the entrance opens. Sound of shoes clicking on the floor. My mum. ‘Hello’, then to Lisa: ‘Har du haft det godt i børnehaven?’.
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana cheerful chatter
Alan’s eyes on me Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
My mum’s contour above me. ‘hvad spiser I i aften? Savasana ‘det ved jeg ikke’. Eyes closed. She walks off. Loud TV noise of children’s voices. I get up and walk over to Lisa to help her pour a glass of milk. My dad steps on my mat with his shoes. I pick up the mat.

Task 10 – Words that move you

Your task is going to be to seek out a text or a collection of words that have a similar effect on you as to what I describe in my reflections on Task 9: Find words that for one reason or other make you feel them physically rather than mentally. It might be to do with language or perhaps the text brings back a physical memory, perhaps it’s simply their aesthetic appearance that brings on the bodily sensations. When you have found your words/text reenact the physical sensations that the words/text brought on. What is the relationship between the somatic and mental understanding of the words/text?

Enjoy the task!