July/August 2021: On the Felt Sense



Today, 7am on 28 July, the last day of session 1 in Mairena.

On the Felt Sense

I have just returned from 24 days in the Spanish mountains with Kia. I was a student for 12 of those days, and an assistant (which really is another form of study) for another 12. After that, I went to visit my family in the north for another 10 days. I needed that long break not to disconnect, but to connect.

During the retreat, Kia made us work on our felt sense, the gateway to our autonomy as practitioners. The technical name for this felt sense is interoception, and it seems to be gaining some traction in modern research. Yet, in general, the felt sense is undermined in culture, including in yoga rooms, in favour of expertise, the thinking mind and traditional, theoretical forms of knowledge. If we listen inside and give time, we know too. We know what is good for us, we know how to take care of ourselves but due to outside pressures and convenience, we override this gut instinct so much that its voice turns feeble. There are consequences to neglecting this felt sense. Sometimes it can end in injury but, even if the worst does not happen, a disconnect within you will manifest. You are really ignoring a part of yourself, after all.

The only way to reactivate this felt sense we have lost is by listening. But not just simple listening: one has to listen with full awareness and without judgement. In psychoanalysis this is called evenly-hovering-attention. The faintest impulse is as important as the big pang; the warm fuzzy feeling is as significant as the one we want to turn away from. As Kia said to us: it all belongs.

It is only by listening, allowing in and making all of ourselves belong, that we can make friends with what we don’t like and transform. And it all starts with cultivating the felt sense.

Laura x

What I have been practicing

Nowhere do I enhance my sensing skills more than during my breath practice. Every July, Kia updates my focus for the whole year and I really savour those first few weeks of getting to know my new practice and how it allows me to go deeper into the subtleties of feeling, of sensing my body, mind and breath. Even after so many years, I still find it miraculous to think the breath holds so much. Imagine what we can travel outside with the help of a spaceship. Humankind has managed to go to the moon! Well, I think of the breath (whether in pranayama or as a meditative anchor) as a spaceship to go far inside, the same distance as to the moon but inwards.

It is not easy to sense the breath at the beginning, but a little attention, given regularly will really take you far in the long run. Just take 5 minutes out of your day (but every day), sit quietly and observe how breathing feels. Where do you feel it? Is your inhale same or different to your exhale? Are there pauses in between? What is the texture, temperature, sound of your breath? Does it change? Does it change anything within you?

What I have been pondering

I have been considering gratitude a lot. Being with my community, with my teacher Kia and with my besties Yotam and Sandra was so perfect, nothing, absolutely nothing was needed. As Kia made us consider, the moment was enough, a beautiful balance.

Many years back, at a workshop in Glasgow, Kia shared a deep secret. She said that the thing that transformed her practice the most was doing it with gratitude. That really stayed with me. James Boag says the same in a different way: practice how you want to feel.

In the 8-limbs yoga system, santosha or contentment (gratitude, really) is one of the behaviours that we are invited to practice, which leads, according to Patanjali, to the highest happiness (Sutra 2.42). Who wouldn’t want that? And it is possible, attainable. You just need to look at Magnus Naddermier’s amazing photo above. That is pure happiness. Thank you, Magnus  Thank you, sangha. Thank you, Sandra and Yotam. Thank you, Kia.

And yes, all these safe hugs after such a long time made feeling grateful and happy a very easy task.

What I have been reading

I have really enjoyed reading this blog post by Dr Ganesh Mohan on Yoga as wellbeing and therapy and what these two words mean. I think he really highlights our own agency and felt sense when he writes:

Yoga and ayurveda guide us to consider balance in the whole person.We experience wellbeing when there is balance.

We practice disorder-prevention when we watch out for tendencies toward imbalances and take care not to worsen them.

We offer therapy when we identify imbalances and bring them back to balance.

The self-care skills and frameworks of yoga cover the spectrum from wellbeing to therapy. For instance, if your back hurts, we could teach the skills of awareness, relaxation, gentle mobilizations, better alignment, strength, stability, slowly increasing range of movement, with positive emotions and thoughts.

But you do not have to wait for back pain to arise in order to practice these skills. The same skills will also keep your back healthy, feeling good, and create a cascading positive effect on your whole-person wellbeing. These skills will also decrease the chances of developing back injuries or pain.

Therefore, the distinction between yoga and yoga therapy is fuzzy. The frameworks of yoga place well-being and ill-being on the same spectrum of qualities; our specific balance decides where we are.

Why not join a yoga class to hone your listening and sensing skills, enhance your wellbeing or give your mind, body and breath some therapeutic time? I would love to see you!

The September programme at Yoga Moves Glasgow on open for booking! These are my open classes this term. I will be teaching LIVE at the Arlington ever Thursday morning. If you want to come, please book in advance as we are still restricting numbers for your safety and comfort. And for those of you who cannot make it, Tuesday mornings (including pranayama, for now) will remain online. Best of both worlds!
07.15 – 08.30/09.00
ONLINE | Yoga (Led into Mysore) Thursdays
07.15 – 08.30/09.00
LIVE | Yoga (Led into Mysore)**PRANAYAMA (Breathing) first Tuesday of every month

07.15 – 08.30
I am also available for pranayama one-to-one sessions online (introductory or following up your practice).
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland CLASSES for staff and students will resume soon. Keep an eye out for the next newsletter.
Copyright © 2021 Laura Gonzalez Yoga, All rights reserved.

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