“I do not pretend to understand his music. I doubt if anyone, including those playing it, really understands it… I feel this music, or rather, as I said, it opens up a part of my self that normally is tightly closed, and seldom recognized feelings, emotions, thoughts well up from the opened door and sear my consciousness.”
Don DeMichael

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

What I Like About Intense Yoga Practices

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Once in a while life gifts me with a special on-the-mat Yoga practice session. In my memory they are the most intense rewarding practices I have experienced – they are an event apart from all others. Yesterday I gained some insight into what they are and why I have a fond relationship with them.

What Are Intense Yoga Practices?

This is a great opportunity to communicate and clarify what, for me, makes an intense practice:

  • A consistent and peaceful presence throughout the practice.
  • Full breathing – ujjayi seems to take on a different sound – as it if resonates in a large and hollow chamber. Breath is never short though constantly challenged.
  • A direct experience of correct and sustainable effort in which full and deep movement is achieved without any need for pushing (in body or mind) and with relatively short rests between postures.
  • Excellent range of movement and responsiveness in the body. A wonderful dance of flexibility supported by strength.
  • Tendency towards static stay in posture.
  • A clear sense of build-up throughout the practice.
  • A crown posture which lends itself to infinite refinment and exploration.
  • Intense heat most of which is contained within.
  • A pulsing throughout the body – very prominent in savasana.
  • An asana practice that practically demands Pranayama.
  • A Pranayama practice in which time stands still, in which the breath swings smoothly and feels like it can go on forever.
  • A Pranayama which ends in such stillness and presence so that meditation is already there without there being any sense of transition.
  • A quiet and still mind with an occassional tempting sensation of swinging or dizziness.
  • A clear ringing in the ears of the flute within.
  • Tears and a smile.

What I Like About Intense Yoga Practices

What’s not to like? 🙂 Well there are plenty of superficial things to like – things that have undesired effects on the ego: (1) immediate inflation in the short term which then transforms into (2) irrelevant expectations in the long term. But there is something that does go deeper – and again it is found off-the-mat.

Intense practices are not some sudden and unexplained explosion of untapped physical abilities. I have recently written about some preparations I make in my life off-the-mat to support my practices on-the-mat. The short term effects of these preparations are better practices.  Intense practices occur when I sustain a combination of good living off-the-mat and good practice on-the-mat over a period of time:

  • Intense practices indicate to me that I’ve been doing something right – that I’ve achieved a good existence over the past days or weeks.
  • Intense practices confirm my life habits and beliefs more then they do my physical qualities.
  • Intense practices remind me to appreciate the choices I have made.
  • Intense practices empower and direct me in facing doubts that may come at me in the future.
  • Intense practices demonstrate to me that Yoga is indeed an encompassing and whole experience.
  • Intense practices teach me to appreciate the common day-to-day practices where I perform uninteresting tasks of  maintenance that keep me running smoothly.
  • Intense practices are then an occasional visit to a race track where I can open-up my engine to full throttle and appreciate and enjoy the great ride that I am 🙂
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