Thursday, 23 May 2013

Freedom In Movement: What Lady Macbeth Taught Me About Yoga

A great lesson I learned from my teacher, Paddy McGrath, is that our bodies often learn by looking at other bodies.  I know that every time I look at a graceful mover (a dancer, a martial artist, an elite runner, a 'free' person walking down the street) some part of my body goes 'wow'.  It is as though my cells turn on and start itching to move that effortlessly.

Enter Lady Macbeth.

After class this week I was having a chat in the change room with one of my students.  We were discussing her stealth-like ninja ability to sneak into class without making a noise.  It got us talking about free movement and we spontaneously started swanning around the locker room with our versions of 'free walking'.

And, amidst this jovial mood, I suddenly thought of Lady Macbeth.

"You know what I really remember about Macbeth is how Lady Macbeth walked in the video we watched in high school" I offered.


"Yes, well, I mean, apart from the other things.  I am sure I must have learned other things," I said quickly, not wanting to look too stupid (although, to be honest, I was struggling to remember what those things were).

"Yeah, like the murder and deception and bloodshed!" laughed my student.

"Oh yes!  But, incredibly, amongst all that decapitation I just remember a scene where Lady Macbeth is walking down a staircase.  And they way she walked!  I will never forget that!  It was as though she was gliding or floating."

Now Lady Macbeth might have some deeper things to tell you about your yoga practice.  But, for me, my body saw freedom and instantly wanted it.  It saw lightness.  It saw effortlessness.  It saw grace.  It saw beauty.  And this is what I remember most in spite of the severed heads on sticks.

The point is your yoga can feel like this too.  Light and free that is, not like you are a severed head on a stick.

Your yoga can feel as easy as crossing your arms or scratching your nose or blinking.  If you are not feeling freedom and ease as you practice then remind yourself that you could be.  Then ask yourself whether you want to.

If the answer is yes (sometimes it might be no for particular reasons of your own) then do something about it.  See whether you can (as Simon Borg Olivier taught me) tense less, stretch less, and think less.    

As I teach a class my voice is never strained, I don't run out of breath, I don't tense up my face.  I talk (probably too much) throughout the poses.  This is one sign of me being relaxed in the posture.

Over the next few weeks in class see if you can let your body, rather than your thinking brain, follow me as I move.  Don't worry if you don't feel like you are getting it.  Come and ask me after class.  Perhaps there is something I can help you with in private.
May your practice be peaceful, happy, and free!

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