Sunday, 14 June 2015

Practicing Calm



Practicing Calm: Four Benefits of The Silent Yoga Class

Every 9 weeks I teach a silent (physical) class.  My retreats always finish with a silent practice.  And in workshops I will usually have a ‘silent’ break somewhere in the middle.

Verbal silence that is for, as those who have ever tried some sort of silent practice will know, just because you stop talking does not mean things go quiet. 

In fact, the opposite can be true.  You start to hear other sounds more intently.  Other voices, the water trickling, the wind swishing, the sound of clothes rustling. 

It is why many teachers discourage people from leaving a class while others are meditating or relaxing; you might think you are being quiet but when the teacher stops talking all other sounds can be amplified.  

And even if we could be alone in a room, we still would not be in silence.  You start to hear the sounds of your breath, the sounds of the inner workings of your body—stomach gurgling, pulse throbbing.  And, unless you are a seasoned meditator, you will likely find your internal voice can take on a noise all of its own!

That said, a silent (physical) yoga class can help you in many ways.  Since I teach one every 9 weeks you will get to one eventually.  Below are some of the benefits you can expect. 

Letting go
First, it is a practice of letting go.  Without a teacher’s verbal instructions you need to ‘be’ where you are at that present moment in time.  Indeed, you cannot ‘be’ anywhere else.  When no one is telling you how to do bakasana or a handstand (or even something less complex), if you cannot figure it out, you need to let that pose go. 

That means you also get a snapshot of where you ‘are’ at that moment in time and what your level of readiness for particular postures is.  It gives you some insight into what you might need to cultivate further.

Going inside
Second, you gain an appreciation of just how much mental energy it takes to listen. 

Listening is a great skill.  It helps you to be a kinder, more socially able person. 

But language processing, even when people are saying helpful or kind things, takes up a lot of your brain’s capacity.

When you do not need to listen anymore you are free to follow your own internal voice and intuition.  Again, you become more in tune with what is going on with you at that moment in time. 

Many religious orders and spiritual retreats harness the insightful power of this type of silence.

Greater connection
But being in silence does mean being alone.  A third benefit is the amazing capacity of the verbal silence to enhance a feeling of connectedness. 

In a silent class you are not just doing your own thing entirely.  You are still following the basic movements and timing of the class.

And the silence combined with shared movement, helps you feel more connected to others in the group.  You sort of become a bit like a school of fish who move collectively—communicating via something other than spoken language.

The connection is not just to the group, however, because the silence of the group also helps you become more in tune with the environment.  You attain a keener sense of the ground beneath you, breeze and sun on your skin, wildlife around you, and the people passing by. 

Thinking less
A fourth benefit is that this type of practice can help you out of ‘over-thinking’. 

With no verbal instructions you have less to question—what does that mean?  What is she talking about? Am I doing it right? 

Over-thinking is one of things that can block movement of energy through our body and, as such, block feelings of overall wellbeing.  It can make us stiff, rigid, anxious, and prevent us from seeing clearly.

When we cannot ‘see clearly’ we do not feel at our best.  We tend not to make the best decisions. 

Practicing calm
These four things—letting go, going inside, a sense of greater connection to the group and environment, and thinking less—all help you to practice bringing about a sense of calm. 

Most people, at the end of the silent practice, find it easier to meditate and find the quality of their meditation much enhanced. 


We will be sharing some beautiful silent practices with you at our retreats and in the classes we teach around the world.  Looking forward to seeing you somewhere soon!

The silent practice is something I learned from Simon Borg Olivier and Bianca Machliss, from Yoga Synergy.  Please get to one of their classes if you can: www.yogasynergy.com

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