Standing Practice


For years I scratched at the tag on my metaphorical yoga teacher shirt. Why did it still say Hatha? 

Truthfully, there are so many ways I have tried (and failed) to tackle this question: historical, commercial, etymological.

When students come to class, what are they looking for? What cues let them know what they might find? How better to communicate what we are up to? Was Hatha Yoga ever a definable thing? Was Yoga? Since we cannot truly separate the way we currently relate to anything from the capitalist and patriarchal conditioning of our mind/bodies, and since this question is being asked (here) in the context of the title of a $12 drop-in class at a neighborhood studio … Does it matter?

With deep gratitude to researchers like Mark Singleton and reporters like Matthew Remski for their vigorous, heart-centered, deeply critical work, I chose to cut the tag from the shirt. I just didn’t want to be bothered by it anymore. At this point, my methods of clothing the wordless privacy of my own spiritual embodiment practice in order to make it tangible in the provisional and public sphere of Yogaland are both very political and very practical.

Standing Practice means Practice for Standing. In relation to my Sunday night class, Grounding Practice, which is a rolling-around-on-the-floor class, these classes are primarily upright and focus on enabling balanced support and spontaneity through the web of connective tissue that forms developmentally through our efforts to come to stand and continues to evolve to facilitate all the things we do on our feet.

Standing Practice is practice knowing ourselves – embodied, upright humans pinned to the Earth our mother through the springing soles of our feet. Practice standing and walking on both legs, with both arms swinging: experiencing preference, avoidance, habit and fear in real time through connection to and compassion for me-as-tissue: fascia, fluid, brain, bone. Practice standing in relation to the world, wearing the skin and flesh and hair that bear all of history into the present and onto which others place their meanings. Practice getting support from the ground. Practice sharing support through effort, growth, and rest. Practice being in, staying in, breathing in the home that we can neither leave nor keep and that we wear ourselves out struggling against. Practice noticing, keeping eyes bright on the space between here and way out there, opening the present, choosing a path, tending the cycle, meeting the fresh moment as it glides through and becomes the past.

What does this look like? Oh, just a regular yoga class. Strength, stretch, breath, energy, awareness. Finding the midline, finding depth, finding the plumbline, finding breadth, finding safety and trust. Breaking the binary, feeling the spectrum. Experiential anatomical and physiological education. Calf stretches, foot workouts, clam shells, experiments with both form and spaciousness. Gentle reminders to get support, to invite tenderness, to stop fixing and start feeling. Strong encouragement to notice socialization, emotion, habit. Delicate, tentative invitations toward unconditional belonging in this brutal, broken world. Practice isolating joint movements; practice moving as a whole, hopeful being.

Published by Devon Riley

lately: youth work, parenting, sorcery, books, walks in the woods

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s