Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's at Stake

Yesterday I took a poetry performance workshop, because, if you didn't know, I write and perform spoken word poetry. Participants were asked to choose one piece to work on, to have it memorized and to bring in a few copies for people to read.

The facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves and say a few words about what we'd hoped to get from the workshop. There was a lot of discussion from people about hoping to gain a better way of reconnecting to the raw emotion that first catalyzed their piece, many claiming that after performing it a number of times, the emotional charge had begun to wear thin. In response, the facilitator asked us, "What's at stake when you share this poem with people?... What's at stake?" He then offered up an anecdote from his own arsenal, and went on to tell us about a poem he reads often which still riles up a sadness in him. The poem was about his late grandmother and a house visit where she was especially jovial when he'd arrived. He told us, "When I perform this poem, I want people to walk away thinking, 'Damn, I really need to call my grandmother today.'"

This got me thinking about my yoga practice and why I come to the mat. I see that it is so easy to go through the motions - because I have a class package that will expire soon, because yoga is a fad exercise - even if my original intention is toward something greater. I think sometimes we practice on the mat and think that this is enough for us to get by, and when that happens, it becomes easier to forget WHY we do it.

So in the same way that as a poet I was asked to examine what my point was for performing the piece I brought to the workshop, I am asking what our point is for practicing hatha yoga. What is at stake when we come to the mat? What is at stake when we walk in to a yoga studio and prepare ourselves for practice? What is the point of moving through a vinyasa or taking a handstand?

...Body-breath alignment, a calming of the nervous system, reducing stress in the body to prevent long-term deterioration and disease, to increase lung capacity, to increase mental focus, to increase core strength and sustainable posture, to increase circulation and endurance, to increase awareness, patience, responsiveness...

what is at stake when you practice yoga? what is at stake when you research and study yoga? and lastly, what is at stake if you don't practice yoga?

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