Back in 2018 I wrote about interoception and why every yogi should be practicing it. Since then I have been on an exploration, further deepening my own interoceptive practice, marrying up mindfulness techniques to help in the body sensing and then introducing all of this into my public classes.

The beauty of yoga is that it provides a perfect forum for both teacher and student to be exploratory, it’s just that this gets lost in the modern portrayal of yoga and in the modern classroom. The current focus in studio’s/gyms etc is largely asana (pose) based, with the real meaning of WHY we practice asana pretty much obliterated from the classroom and also from our inboxes and social media. Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga teaches us that the asana is just one small part of the equation, only mentioned in order for us to remove stiffness from the body so that our time spent in meditative practices is more comfortable.

Interestingly enough when we can move beyond the portrayal of athleticism into the more subtle practices of gentle, enquiring movement then a yoga practice suddenly becomes more accessible for increased number of people. I’ve been playing around in my teaching, asking students to notice external stimuli then to observing any internal stimuli. I’m finding that this back and forth emphasis on noticing outer to inner stimuli provides a practice that is accessible for all students at some level. This opens them up to a more curious and exploratory approach to their bodies and allows them to move at their pace towards the inner realms, which may be unknown and perhaps scary on some level for them.  Giving students something that they can achieve means they are more likely to stay with the practice of yoga than abandon it. I see my role as a teacher to guide students to connect with their bodies on a more wholistic level.

I look back 10 years ago to the dynamic, rigid practice I used to teach and laugh at the ferocity and intensity I bought to those classes. I have to admit to feeling like a drill sergeant as I delivered them. I saw very little ‘yoga’ in them, but they were popular because of their athletic approach. Age and wisdom have taught me that an ongoing yoga practice is one of slower, mindful movements where ALL the senses are on board, including the inner wisdom of interoception. This is what leads us from a yoga practice that is primarily asana based to a practice which draws us towards Pratyahara, the 5th limb of yoga that Patanjali described in his sutras, many hundreds of years ago. Pratyahara is the process of moving from the external to the internal; immersing oneself in the impressions of the internal state; moving towards a state of meditation towards enlightenment.