Yes, the old effortless effort quality. It’s something which us yogis know all too well as we attempt to ‘float’ through to a seated position from down dog or lift our entire body weight off the floor in a cross legged position (known as lolasana)and 'drift' back. Floating, drifting! 'Effortless' is not the word, there’s a heap of steely determination, five long years of regular practice and a tonne of internal bandha* control and physical strength required. So when the teacher (and I’ve done it many times myself) says jump or float lightly through to a seated position you know at least 70% of the class are gritting their teeth and working strongly to get a glimpse of the requisite ‘mysterious’ internal strength. It’s easy to say it, it’s not so easy to do it.
Matthew Sweeney, in his book Astanga Yoga As It Is says when learning how to jump back and through, “try to optimise both the feeling of lightness (no strain) and strength. One without the other is an imbalance.” So teeth gritting isn’t going to work is it? And that’s exactly what I feel I’ve been doing lately. I’ve lost a little bit of the lightness and let the strength (good) and strain (bad) take over, leaving me unbalanced (exactly what a yogi doesn’t want to be).
For the first couple of months of this New Life there was a certain amount of floating going on, I was somehow letting go of any external or ‘obvious’ effort but; like an eager-to-please duckling paddling madly to keep up with mum, my webbed feet were working double time. At least then I was managing to maintain some floaty serenity; now I’m splashing.
So, where’s all this going you ask?
Well as a new yoga teacher I feel this responsibility to be light, serene and to present effortless effort in all that I do. You know a good teacher when it all just comes together naturally; you’re taken along in the current of their class and you don’t even notice it. Who knows if anyone is taken along in my current, but today I made my first obvious yoga boo boo. It did not come together naturally at all. I was teaching a corporate class in the city at a market research agency where my sister works, and I had my alarm set for 6am to get the ferry at 7am and be there for 8am when my husband woke me up at 7.05 saying, ‘Claire, don’t you need to be up?’
So I leapt out if bed, called my sister straight away and apologised. What else can you do? But I feel like I let people down. Due to traffic and ferry times etc it wasn’t going to be possible to make it there for 8 or even 8.15 and they have to start work at 9. So I just had to say sorry again and that I’ll be there next week for sure.
So much for the effortless effort.
But of course, as my hubby said, these things happen. It’s the first time I’ve let anyone down (knowingly!) with a yoga class and at least now it will make me be sure to double, triple check that my alarm clock is properly set.
I am sure most people would agree but there's nothing worse than letting other people down (except maybe letting yourself down) and I did both. I’m tired at the moment, these are not excuses, but I guess I didn’t wake up naturally at 6 ish as I usually do 'effortlessly'; so I need to pull on some of that steely strength, the years of regular practice, and a bit more lightness, to take things a little less seriously. Occasionally we can’t jump through lightly, we mess up, I can’t let it weigh heavily on me.
*Bandhas are internal locks or seals are contracted or activated during yoga practice and which contain and control prana (energy) and heat within the body. The most common bandhas are: mula bandha at the pelvic floor; uddiyana bandha located at the navel, lower abdomen region; and jalandhara bandha which is a tucking of the chin to bring about soft audible ujjayi breath.