In March I went to Charleston, SC on one of my many trips to see and study with Diane Long.
The peripatetic nature of Diane’s life means that for 17 years I have been not only studying with her, but traveling with her. Luckily this has worked out very well for me, as I have always had a good dose of wanderlust and love of adventure, and traveling with Diane is an adventure.
In fact, life with Diane is an adventure. Even if traveling isn’t involved, (like when I lived in Rome and got to see her on a regular basis) it is wise to expect the unexpected.
You might, like we did, go to visit a friend in a small North Carolina mountain town and end up in a Fourth of July parade, or go to the dirtiest, grimiest city in India and have the most sparklingly magical time.
One of the adventures in Charleston in March revolved around a piano. Diane wanted to get a piano for her lovely little flat. We found the perfect one on Craigslist, went to see it, purchased it, and had it delivered.
Only it didn’t go that uneventfully (has anyone ever moved a piano?!?!?)
Along the way we made a new friend, we learned a humbling story of a woman of incredible strength, we laughed, and we cried. And Diane has a piano with a story.
The piano is relevant in more ways than one, though, as there is a strong correlation between this approach to yoga and playing music. As Diane explains in her book, “Notes on Yoga”, Vanda was a classical pianist and explored how to play without tension, and in the same way, she looked for a harmonious way of doing yoga.
Developing any art requires an openness to the process of discovery. We cultivate a relationship where we have to rest, observe, and let there be space as much are we are “active”. A responsive quality is nurtured in our practice.
And that quality is invaluable in life. It helps refine our attention and our openness to possibility.
We can decipher what’s real and learn to listen to ourselves, instead of following falsely imposed limitations.
And what is a yoga practice if it’s not teaching you to listen to yourself, and if you can’t integrate what you are learning into your life?
I was attracted to this approach to yoga for many reasons – one of them is that I’ve never been a very good follower. (Probably because I’m the youngest of seven kids, so I always had to do what others said, and it was rarely considered that I might have an original thought of my own!) Whatever it is I do, I tend to do with a great deal of enthusiasm and passion, but I can’t just follow instructions – I have to understand it.
In the early years of my yoga practice and teaching, I found myself questioning a lot of what was being said and done, and it wasn’t until I met Diane that I found answers to questions, and something that made sense.
It makes sense because it leads you to discover the answers yourself.
Through working with Diane I have learned that, ultimately, a yoga practice should be helping you enjoy your life and and live it with a sense of ease and grace. This is not something that is preached or taught in any kind of linear way.
It is developed through an understanding of the importance of simplifying, of repetition, and of have a having a routine. It takes diligent practice, and is always a work in progress.
Ease and grace come from authenticity. And authenticity comes from a knowing and acceptance of yourself. It is not easy, nor is it often encouraged in this world (in fact, acceptance of yourself is a fairly radical act!). In learning to accept yourself, you develop a friendship with yourself.
And that’s what this approach is about – becoming friends with your body. And like every friendship it has it’s ups and downs, it’s moments of comfort and joy, and moments of discomfort and frustration. When we bring this understanding to our relationship with our body, it helps us learn to live attentively, without judgment, assumptions, and expectations of ourselves or others.
And acceptance of others is rooted in acceptance of yourself. Eventually we can learn not only to stop struggling with our bodies, but to stop struggling with life, and see that beauty and possibility are everywhere… as long as we allow it to be!