You’ve started Yoga and you love it. It doesn’t take rocket science to immediately feel the benefits. You’re sleeping better, feeling more emotionally balanced and enjoying the community that Yoga brings. Your family and friends notice the difference too. You seem happier, more settled and able to cope better with the stresses of life. So whats next?
Your yoga teacher encourages you to come at least three times a week to keep up your strength and fitness levels. Some weeks you make it and some you don’t. Life does gets in the way in an all too short work week. Yoga isn’t about being competitive but you can’t help sneaking a glance at your fellow Yogi holding Down Dog that little bit longer or the svelte Yogini lightly kicking up into handstand while you struggle with just being able to hold yourself up in the plank pose.
You might wonder. What makes Miss Yogini any different then you? You assume its her size, her age or that she went to India last year, but make no mistake. Those things have nothing to do with why someone can achieve a seemingly difficult posture.
What really makes the difference is time, effort and consistency of practice and a willingness to take one’s practice to the next level. So what does taking your practice to the next level really mean? Is it about being adept in the poses we see in the Yoga magazines? Or is something more mysterious and other worldly? Or both? For me as a practitioner of over 29 years my practice changed when I made the commitment to move out of my comfort zone. My first 5 day early morning intensive was in a small Australian coastal town in the late 80’s. I loved sliding out of bed at 5.30 am to stretch and shape my body like a pretzel . The air at that time was moist and rich and the world was still quiet and rare. When asked to sit quietly and watch my breath before beginning the asanas I could literally eat the silence.
I was 23 at the time, with hardly any flexibility or strength, but I loved my teacher and was intrigued by Yoga and couldn’t help thinking there was more to it then met the eye.
After that first week long immersion I was convinced this was the secret formula I’d been looking for. By the end of the week I could stay in Down dog for over 2 minutes, hold an arm balance without crashing onto my nose and push up into full wheel all on my own. I was more flexible and strong then I could ever remember and the rest of my day seemed to float past like a fluffy cloud. It was like being in love or something way better which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
That something I couldn’t quite grasp was what led me to the next part of “ taking my practice to the next level” I had so many questions about why I felt so good after Yoga and what was actually happening when I stepped onto the mat. Having started Yoga so young purely for physical reasons it was a while before I even knew there was anything more. I have my experienced teachers and mentors to thank for guiding me to deeper and deeper levels. It was their encouragement to do more that took my practice and understanding to the next level.
I can’t rave enough about the many benefits associated with attending a Yoga intensive. Giving yourself a consistent time period to improve your skills on a physical level and also understanding more about what Yoga is and how it works on the mental level is immensely transformative . The other factor of practicing at dawn means the level of energy available to you is magnified. At dawn the prana or life force is very close to the earth, the heat of the sun has yet to burn away the delicate natural forces that nourish the earth and us. An early morning practice enables you to cultivate your energy and build your immunity, strengthening all your systems so you come back to your natural resilience.
These days it’s not as “ in” to offer an intensive. Everyone is too busy fitting Yoga around their day. However for those people who want to have the skills to attempt more difficult poses like handstand or wheel, who our looking to know, understand and explore more of what Yoga is all about. And especially for those who want to keep the “high” alive in every day life. A deeper immersion is an absolute must.
Why not dive in right now and Join Rachel Zinman and John Weddepohl for a 5 day early morning Intensive at Barefoot Yoga March 24- 28