Vulnerability and Inner Body Bright by Kamala
I’ve been spending much of the summer in Vernon with my other half. Before him, I hadn’t spent much time there and thought it was about time to get to know the yoga community. Thanks to a couple SOYA yoga teacher training grads I know who live there, I was able to offer a workshop in a local studio. It went well and I was invited to do some subbing while I am in Vernon. With the aim of connecting with more like-minded people, I agreed and headed there this morning.
While I’ve been teaching full time since 2001 and have had the pleasure of teaching all over the world, the vulnerability and humility that surfaces in walking into a new studio culture never ceases to amaze me. There’s subtle protocol and expectations and etiquette that is beyond the descriptive words on a brochure or website. There is rapport and trust to be cultivated (hopefully), never-mind navigating the pre-claimed floor spots where long time students have been laying their mats for years. Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of openness to walk into a studio as the guest teacher or as a new student.
But there’s value in participating with butterfly-inducing situations. At the root of our walking into them, is a longing to explore new territory, whether that’s our inner landscape or our capacity to facilitate. Making ourselves vulnerable is a letting down of guard, opening to a fully inhabited state of receptivity.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” –Brene Brown
In Anusara Yoga (the yoga lineage I’m a part of), the first alignment principle is called “Inner Body Bright.” While its physical characteristics include lengthened side bodies, heart space open and shoulders back, it also refers to a state of receptivity of mind. Before muscle engagement, before bone alignment and long before the fullest stretch possible is an acknowledgement of our co-creative dance with life, an opening up to the unknown factor. The truth is we can plan how a yoga practice will go or how we hope our day will unfold but often life has other plans. When we experience vulnerability on the mat, our minds and poses are more adaptable, sensitive and organic. Our practice is alive rather than rote.
As students, adaptability and sensitivity serve us when our bodies or minds don’t function the way we expect they would. There’s suddenly room for inquiry and compassion in the space created by receptivity. As teachers, they make us more sensitive to the non-verbal dialogue continually happening between us and our students, allowing us to adapt our sequencing, cueing, tone of voice (etc) to suit their needs. Our classes then become more animated with vitality and intuitively informed.
If our aim in practicing yoga is for high quality connections with ourselves and with others, it must start with making space for nature’s (life’s) flow. After all, it’s way more creative and fun to dance with life rather than plow through it, on and off the mat.
Vulnerability is the heart of an artful life.
Kamala Wilkie is a SOYA, ERYT-500 and an Anusara-Inspired™ teacher. She is a 200hr and 300hr lead trainer for the South Okanagan Yoga Academy (SOYA) and owner of Purple Lotus Yoga in Penticton, BC.