saturday observation

I love teaching weekend mornings downtown!  It’s such a great group!  I enjoy a 25 min bike ride to downtown Yoga Oasis studio, get it all set up: ac on, candles lit, incense burning, sign-in sheet ready, sweat wiped off, welcoming smile on my face.  I put myself in the shoes of my students, who would be waking up on a Saturday morning and choosing to start their weekend with yoga.  how would they be feeling?  what makes them come to practice?  what do they want from practice?  What can I offer them to brighten their day and teach them something?  Doing this helps me to get out of my own head, whatever drama may be playing out up there, so I may be fully present to be sweet and helpful to whomever arrives.

Today’s word was “observe.”  One of my first yoga teachers, Ulla Lundgren, said that yoga is ‘Svadyaya,’ or study of the self.  I just started a book called Self Observation, the awakening of Conscience, An Owner’s Manual, by Red Hawk.  Red Hawk summarizes a principle in physics called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle” in the following way, “The act of observation changes the thing observed.”  I remember learning about this in school, how the behavior of particles changes simply because they are being observed.  I remember being in awe by this, but sorry to say, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind and priorities, so I’m grateful to receive it again in very clear, jargon-free language.  I dived into further research on Wikipedia and vague memories of past physics classes re-emerge along with forced focus to combat glazed eyes and mind-wandering tendencies… There is much more to this principle and these ideas, but for now, I’m using Heisenberg’s principle.  Thinking about this makes me realize that the observer is what is being observed and is therefore constantly changing all the time.  …

I recently finished a book called, Gurdjieff, A Beginner’s Guide, How Changing the Way We React to Misplacing Our Keys Can Transform Our Lives, by Gil Friedman.  The core practice in this book was also Self-Observation.  Friedman says, “The only person who can do the Work is ourselves… The only way to make the Work functional is to actually apply it by observing ourselves uncritically.  We are the subjects of this Work.  The aim of the Work is not to change the world but to change ourselves.”  Yoga asana is one way to practice this concept in our bodies, minds, and hearts.  We affect ourselves through our direst observation and subsequent interaction with what we observe.  For example, in triangle pose, we observe our leg muscle is disengaged and even bent to a degree.  Simply observing this may instigate corrective action, but observation comes first.  The teacher’s presence and guidance, along with the big energy of a packed yoga-hour room may also motivate fuller participation, for it has been scientifically proven that when people are watched they perform better.  Christina Sell spoke to this in her recent workshop, “Teaching the Raw Beginner.”

If we practice watching ourselves from an objective viewpoint regularly we change just by this simple act.  Again and again, simple, but not easy.