That's my replacement for the now grossly overused cliche 'dance as though there was nobody watching'.
I started practice this morning, intending to do what I could of the Ashtanga primary sequence.
During Padangusthasana, sensing the twist in my pelvis, I decided to start again and video my 'normal' practice on my laptop so that I could watch back on myself objectively and critically, with a teacher's eye, to spot the imbalances and misalignments.
I'd never done this before.
I set up the laptop, and stepping onto the mat, gave myself the following instructions:
- stay no longer than 3 breaths in each pose
- follow primary series up to the end of the standing poses then go where body/mind directs
- practice without looking at the image on the screen
- ignore the camera so that a 'normal' practice could be done unaffected and then be reviewed.
That last instruction proved to be very interesting...
No-one would be viewing this except me so I didn't have to be my on best behaviour.
It wasn't a performance piece. Rather it was to be the opposite, a 'nobody's watching me so I can do what I want' practice. The purpose was to look critically at how I enter and exit and work in poses, and get a general sense of how awkwardly or gracefully I move through the sequence.
Although our practice varies enormously day to day, depending on energy and inspiration, our unique character is unconsciously yet vividly expressed in our gestures, the way we walk, our movements, facial expressions, tone of voice, AND our yoga practice etc...
How we move in and through our practice gives away our true character.
I was curious to observe and evaluate myself practising as if watching a stranger.
So it was important to be unmindful that there was a camera.
With 3 breaths in each pose it was a steady, flowing practice (not my usual style as I tend to stay at least 5 breaths, deepening, exploring and challenging my limitations). It was quite lovely to keep moving and not go quite so deep in each pose, to keep it lighter and less demanding of my body.
Although I was not consciously trying to do each pose more correctly for the camera, I did notice a suffusion of fuller attention into the practice, not a conscious intention, but a subtle response to being watched.
Those who practice both at home and at the shala will know what I mean - when there are eyes all around, especially the teacher's eyes, we work harder.
I can be fully immersed in the inner space of practice (pratyahara) and fully attentive to it on a very complete level while also filling out my skin to shine for the onlooker. I'm not talking about putting on a show or performance (an ego-based motivation); rather there is a subtle energetic 'giving' - our pure spirit is giving out its best to express it's highest potential and uplift not only those around who might be subconsciously tuning in, but also to raise the vibrations of humanity.
(I am reminded of the quantum physics discovery that "photons are influenced just be being 'watched" and that the more intense the watching, the greater the watcher's influence on how the particles behave.)
Another digression: I am also reminded of when I did a full Ashtanga practice while being professionally photographed for Kosta's website a few years ago. How could I forget...it was during this practice under lights and in front of cameras, that something gave way in my lumbar spine. I was holding Paschimottanasana and one of the photographers asked me to stay longer while she took photos from different angles and lighting. I felt my lumbar tweak and release, and knew instantly that something was very wrong. I remember completing the rest of the practice in agonising pain then going into a full blown state of pain-induced shock after I left the studio. The injury ended up changing my yoga practice forever, as well as my direction and my life history. Moral of digression: it is the ego that causes injury, not yoga.
Back to today's lovely flowing practice: the camera kept me mindful and aware, balancing inner focus with outer precision, my spirit expressing itself through the vehicle of yoga.
The sequence was short and sweet: sun salutes, all the standing poses, seated poses up to Janu Sirsasana A, then a series of backbends and the full finishing sequence of inversions.
At the end, I reached up to press stop on the laptop, eager to watch back on this practice after Savasana, only to find it hadn't filmed anything!
I had it set on camera, not video. I got one snapshot taken 3 seconds after I'd hit the start button, before the first sun salute even started, then nothing.
Today's gift was in recognising the value of practising as though someone was watching and the soul's ability to express it's full beauty through mindful movement.