This is a concept that I have been developing in my practice and teaching for the last few years, and my Liberated Yoga approach is based on the new research about the nervous system. As a teacher I sometimes hear from my students, as they are doing a pose, that they feel something in their back, hip, etc. "Should I be concerned?" they ask me. "I feel something!" The reason for their uncertainty is that many people live such cerebral lives, that they notice sensations from the body only when there is a problem, which the body is signaling through pain and discomfort. Pleasant and enjoyable sensations are just not noticed, and so we go days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, without noticing how good something feels - that reach overhead for the jar of spice from the top shelf, that squat to examine the first spring flower (if you can still squat, that is), that sock being pulled over your foot in the morning. And so our nervous system realizes, that to get our attention, it needs to scream at us. And so it does, and we do, but if that happens only according to this scenario, then we lose the ability to distinguish between sensations. If we feel anything, that usually means trouble, and therefore all sensation is viewed with alarm. On such a "diet" of pain and suffering, our nervous system becomes depleted and malnourished.

In a Yoga practice it is important to be present mentally and to make observations about how something feels. Then we can rediscover the pleasure of movement and shape-shifting, so that to the rolodex of sensations we add every variety. Next time you feel "something" while stretching into a twist or a back bend, stay with the sensation and pay close attention. Where is it coming from, how "loud" is it, do you feel unsure about it, or do you have a definite sense of whether it feels good or not. Your smooth Ujjayi breath will help you stay objective, because its soothing sound has a calming effect on the nervous system. When the nervous system is calm and relaxed, it can make a better judgement about what is happening, without the alarmist tendencies. Thus we can cultivate a rich vocabulary of sensations, of various decibels, in every part of the body. With these sensations you can "feed" your nervous system a more balanced nutrition with movements and shapes that feel good, that you enjoy, that you would want to do again tomorrow, thus ensuring a consistent, regular practice. Use it or lose it!


Anna M.