Flexibility and Repetition: How to be Mindful in Yoga, Tango and Life.

Originally written by Zara M on 12  March 2014

I am always quite fascinated by the fact that every week I can go to the same Yoga4Tango class and practice the same yoga sequence pretty much over and over again, yet still be able to take something different away from each session. This doesn’t always happen, mind you. Sometimes it feels tedious and repetitive; but that is why I have to remember that what I take away from each class always depends on what I choose to bring to the class in the first place.

The same applies to every aspect of our lives, whether it is dancing with the same Tango partners or learning the same back-to-basics dance techniques over and over again, whether we are facing repetition in our jobs or daily routines, or whether we retire to bed with the same person every single night for the rest of our lives.

Last weekend a theme emerged in the class, which focused on ‘flexibility’, and I decided to link it to my thoughts on repetition, because the idea of ‘practice’ is linked to repetition and also to improvement and ‘reaching’ further into the task or action so that we get more out of it. When you repeat the same things over and over again; it could be a tune on the piano or a sequence of yoga poses, your aim must be to discover new things about yourself, and experience new feelings and watch your natural abilities flow and grow. Repetition is about learning and reaching your maximum potential. In order to do this you have to work on your physical and also your mental flexibility.

When I first started to practice yoga with Yoga4Tango I had a vague concept in my head about how practicing yoga can be a good way to improve your flexibility, and while I thought this was pretty cool, I wasn’t quite sure why it was necessary, at least for me. I can’t touch my toes, but then so what? I can’t bend backwards until I reach the floor in an arch, but then how would that ever be of any use to me in my everyday life? It might be nice to be able to say I can do the splits, but is that really going to benefit me in any real way? When am I ever going to need to know how to do the splits? I am now beginning to realize that yoga encourages us to be flexible in many different ways, not all physical, and that all of these ways can refer to and affect the ways in which we approach life. When you translate anything you do to the bigger picture, suddenly the potential benefits and possibilities become infinite.

During our Sun Salute Sequence in the Yoga class last weekend our instructor brought our attention, through his usual commentary and instructions, to how our muscles behave throughout the sequence. We were made aware of the constant contraction and expansion of our muscles, and the fact that in yoga, and also in Tango, we are never staying still or the same; even the mind has to be flexible in order to allow the muscle energy to transition into organic energy and flow naturally to increase the body’s flexibility and maintain it’s strength and stability. The instructor reminded us that yoga is about mindful movements, and not blind repetitions.

When you practice yoga in this mindful way, and you really pay attention and put effort into your movements so that each pose flows into the next, you can actually feel quite beautiful and enter a meditative realm of your own. This ethereal existence can be felt when dancing Tango or doing any activity in your daily routine. You should try it!

I had the terribly long and tedious task of copy and pasting clumps of text from an online script writing facility to the new software I bought for my macbook, because the content wasn’t compatible to transfer over in one go. I applied a similar mindset to the task to what I have been talking about, and soon I found that I was in a rather blissful state; not zoned out, but experiencing a mindful pattern of movement and thought. My brain was in sync with my fingers, and I became so naturally absorbed with the task; and even though it had all of my focus, I was still well aware of what was going on around me, and perfectly able to respond to the activity. I felt like I was melting into what I was doing, and that I was part of my environment. There was no resistance or clashing.

I know is sounds a bit abstract to compare something as mundane as computer work with yoga, but the same sort of thing happened when I went for a bike ride. I haven’t ridden a bike for a long time and so it was jolly nerve wrecking. I was so stressed and I felt like I couldn’t focus on the different elements of riding a bike all at once – there was balance, vision, working the brakes, steering, watching out for cars, and people, and dogs – my mind was in a state of chaos and I just wanted to get off the silly thing! But on the way back home, when I got the hang of it, I allowed myself to slip into that ethereal state of mind, so that suddenly the whole experience became enjoyable and relaxing. It felt more natural and right, like I was part of the bike and the road and anything else that happened to join me on my ride.

I think that if you can apply this level of positivity to the different areas of your life, you will stop your mind from closing up and making life seem more difficult or complicated. Look for ways in which you can help yourself, and ease yourself into a comfortable level of flexibility that feels right for you at the time. As you know I have been having trouble with the pigeon pose in my yoga class. Instead of feeling despondent about it or frustrated, I didn’t seek to put the problem at the door of my instructor. Instead I took onboard what I have learnt in the classes and through various conversations, and I attempted to connect with my own body to find out why I can’t seem to relax into this pose. Using a couple of blocks I managed to achieve an alignment in my body that felt good for me at the time, and I know that the more positive energy I put into this pose, the more I will encourage myself to discover what feels right, and the more I will get out of it.

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