Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The perfect pair

When I first started practising yoga, many moons ago, I was young and shy and mortified at the idea of having to work with a partner in yoga class. Each time my teacher, Judy Krupp, would ask us to work in pairs, I'd inwardly cringe and then just try to make the best of it. After a few years had passed I started to appreciate that working with a partner opens up a completely different way to practise asana: one is both supported and challenged. It's a form of work that can't be achieved solo, even using props (although the ropes used in classic Iyengar practice come close). When one works with a partner, the partner can, within reason, push a little bit, pull back a little bit, and generally make the experience new. The asana you practice with a partner is a new posture, in a lot of ways.

Heavy rain has fallen on Sydney over the last few days, and we also had a full moon over the weekend. It's always wise to take the environment, weather and lunar cycle into account when planning classes, as we are all affected by these things, whether we want to believe that or not. So for my class this week I decided that a grounding, earthy practice with a little bit of heat would be best - grounding and earthy because of the moon and a bit of heat to steam off and squelch out the water.

For the first time ever, I decided to give over a large portion of the class to partner work (usually I'll only ask students to work one or two postures at a time in pairs). My theory was that the partnering would provide the grounding/earthing by providing strength. To prepare for this work we played around with core strength using props so that the bodies were used to the idea of a support structure; then real, live humans took the place of the props.

The results were surprising. I had expected that, after the initial heat of the warm-up work and the core strength work, the partner practice would be slower, even a bit heavier, more tamasic. We moved slowly, for sure, but everyone got very, very warm. The partnering seemed to encourage openness in bodies (and tongues, occasionally - I had to use my schoolmarm voice in order to be heard) that translated into heat flowing out of everyone and into the room; it was a rajasic practice. Even with the windows open, it was steamy. And then they all got really tired - almost exhausted - even though we hadn't done that many postures.

The whole class was a reminder that we are fundamentally energy beings, and that the behaviour of that energy can't necessarily be predicted. I like to use the phrase 'opening the gates' when talking about what asanas can do, and it seemed that in the class the partnering helped fling open gates that had perhaps been rusted shut for a while. It was really exciting to see - exciting to feel the living energy in the room. And it's definitely encouraged me to incorporate more partner work in class in future.

To my wonderful students who came along to play, sweat and laugh - thank you. I hope you all slept really, really well.

- Sophie Hamley

1 comment:

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