Around this time last year, I took a weekend workshop with Eddie & his assistant Kristin that was both healing and transformative. Four long sessions of intense yoga work, I was in heaven! Learning how to dive deeper into poses with props was a wonderful learning experience for me. I know a bunch of tips and tricks to bring to my students, but it will take me a while to fully integrate the new ideas into my practice. When you listen to the words of someone who has spent their lifetime living and breathing yoga every moment of every day, you want to remember and digest every word. Eddie is very clear, but also a little quiet at times. He would demonstrate an asana for us, let us take a picture to remember where all the props get placed, and then look at us and smile, “Your turn”. We would then attempt to replicate the sometimes complicated asana with moderate success and then he and Kristin would assist us to help our alignment. We would chill in the pose for 3-6 minutes, and then move on to the next asana. It is so effective to see the pose and then feel it in your body, you start to create the muscle memory of where to go in that particular pose.
I didn’t always use to love props. I though I was too flexible for them, and that they were mostly for beginners. My ego was telling me that I had already learned all that they could teach me. Over the years, my practice has dramatically changed and I realized how helpful props really are, no matter what level of yoga you are at. My teacher Karin in my training always told us, “Your props are your friends! Love them, learn from them, take care of them”. I learned more about the right way to use props, to create more space in the body than you could just by yourself. Blocks, bolsters, blankets, straps, every yogi should have an arsenal of support tools at their fingertips. With props, you can give yourself more stability, more comfort and therefore focus more on your breath and going within.
With this workshop, however, I saw a different side of props. Some asanas were restorative, juicy and relaxing and I was able to get a different sense of the knowledge of the pose while being supported by the props. Other asanas were much more challenging for me. Some backbends, a hamstring stretch; there were a few poses that I Could. Not. Wait. To. Get. OUT OF! Poses that made my legs ache and my back feel like it was going to crack open at every moment. I have practiced yoga for long enough to know the difference between when a pose hurts and when it is just deeper than you have gone before. Your brain wants to drift to a happy place, somewhere your muscles are not asking you what the heck you are doing. But to really learn, you must stay in your body, even when things get challenging. You must be in the present moment with the work that is happening, actively breathing and not letting your mind wander off. I got deeper into poses than I thought my body was capable of with the help of all of the props!
Eddie kept gently reminding us to find the comfort in the pose. You are the author of your own story, write it how you want things to be happening. For a few poses, I wondered what on earth he was talking about. I was not sure whether to be laughing out loud at getting myself into these pretzel poses or crying with frustration. I was unbelievably uncomfortable, how could I find comfort that was not there? Was I doing it wrong? I knew I was not because I got great hands-on adjustments in almost every pose. I wished for time to speed up, to get me to the finish line faster. There was no music, only a clock quietly ticking, and the occasional hum of the thermostat. Eddie would remind us of something else about the pose, or talk a little yoga philosophy, and then let the quiet moments last to let things sink in. I was reminded again how fast my mind races and how hard it is for me to quiet down, especially while doing something physically challenging. Yoga forces you to hold a mirror up to yourself, and sometimes it is hard to accept what you see. But I kept trying, I stayed focused and really made it a point to do my best to absorb every pose and ask Kristin or Eddie questions after each workshop if I didn’t fully understand anything.
Then Sunday morning came. I was up early on the weekend for my 2nd day in a row and feeling the good kind of sore that you only get from lots of yoga. I finally got to a place where I was able to dig in a little deeper into my practice. I was not comfortable in every pose, but I was able to get closer to the comfort Eddie was trying to teach us about. I was able to visualize where I was going in the pose, and know that I was not there now, but I would be one day. Practice and all will come. A long time student of Eddie’s asked him in the workshop, “But I thought you have always told me to do 'X' in my pose? Why are you telling me now to do 'y'?”. And he replied, “I have different eyes now. I can’t remember what I was seeing then, but I know that this is what I am seeing now”. To me, that was the essence of this workshop. You are born with a body that changes from day to day. You were not the same person you were yesterday. Every time you return to a pose you have something more to learn. Another level, another layer to peel away. Something new to discover about your body or your heart. Something to work on or work out. Somewhere to find more support. So start fresh, come back with new eyes, and find the comfort in your asana.
To learn more about Eddie and find his teaching schedule, check out Maya Yoga Studio in Maui, Hawaii.