Layering in Yoga

shutterstock_17293141A yoga pose, a series of poses, a flow of poses (or asanas) can get the blood to flow, the joints to open, the breath to quicken. This physical enlivening is a pure experience when  done with our full attention. We strive to avoid distractions, especially that voice that tells us we are just repeating. Instead we aim to focus fully on each pose as a new experience and capture this unique moment in time, adding it to our treasure chest of experience, hoping to improve and go deeper.

One of my non-yoga teachers, Emily Conrad, encouraged us to repeat a series of movements in our practice. The idea is to move (and breathe and sound) in a particular way, then pause to notice what occurred in our bodies as a result – either standing, sitting or lying still. Then, do another round, or layer the series, and see what the second round gives rise to. Sometimes a yoga teacher will instruct students to do a pose more than once. But the key is the pause in between poses. When we work this way, the body adjusts and the pose deepens quite naturally with each round.

The pause (or open attention) sets the pose(s) in the body at a deeper level. It’s like practicing a golf swing and being open to a different swing each time, exploring how to move to get a better, longer drive. But we don’t typically have such a measurable outcome as distance with yoga poses. It can take months or years before we see a noticeable difference in the way we perform a pose.

Layering, doing another round of a pose or poses followed by a pause, and giving this our full attention, is an opportunity to experience the pose from inside the body, feel the subtle sensations created, and know the pose from the inside out. It cultivates curiosity and appreciation about the inner workings of the pose. When we notice the benefits, directly experience them while at rest, we amplify their effects and come to better understand our own bodies.

About Margaret Graw

At the intersection of writing and yoga
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