Jumping-through negativity

Last Saturday I ran my first jump-through workshop. For those who don’t know, the jump-through is a dynamic linking sequence that is used between postures in ashtanga and vinyasa krama yoga.

I had deliberated for a long time about whether it was a good idea or not to run the workshop.  I wanted to pass on all the tips that I’d learnt during the tens of thousands of jump-throughs that I’ve probably done over the years. And I wanted to inspire and encourage people; to empower them to know that they too can achieve lift-off through regular practice and a positive attitude.  However, I was aware that, for ashtanga practitioners in particular, the jump-through has a tendency to occupy the thoughts rather too much until, at worst, it can eclipse the rest of the practice and cause negative feelings of self-defeat. Why? Mostly because it’s so damn hard and seemingly unattainable for many, especially at the start of the ashtanga journey.

So I didn’t want to encourage this negative preoccupation with the jump-through. Yes, it’s an essential part of the ashtanga practice: through its repetition it builds the necessary strength and endurance to carry you further into the series, and it fosters the discipline required to follow this form of yoga. But it’s just another part of the series, no more or less important than any other part. The ashtanga system works as a logical progression of postures – if you do them all, no skipping (apart from when you have injuries or other contra-indications), then the body will open up and strengthen progressively.

And it doesn’t matter if you don’t float through the air gracefully with each jump-through – only a handful of gifted, dedicated practitioners manage to do this (check out David Swenson and Kino McGregor on youtube for male and female examples of this). Most people don’t have the requisite time to invest in achieving this. And that’s OK! We all work with what we have, where we’re at, and the most important thing is not skipping the jump-throughs and trying to do them with integrity each time. For this, I mean trying to effectively utilise the breath, drishti and bandhas and engaging a positive mindset. You don’t even need to ‘jump’; it’s much better to step with bandha control, a steady drishti and breath awareness than it is to fling the limbs around in an uncontrolled manner. This way, the transitions can still be graceful and steady, such that the moving meditation of the practice is not disturbed. And with this approach, with regular practice, positive energy, patience, perseverance and a can-do attitude, the necessary core and shoulder strength and hip flexibility will develop in time, such that, one day, the body might start to seem so light that a little hop seems a natural next step. There is no rush.

I learnt a lot from the workshop, but one of the most noticeable lessons was that jump-throughs seem to tap into the worst of our fears and negative feelings towards ourselves. As I went round the room, giving assistance, the negativity that was rising with each jump-through was almost palpable, and various versions of “I can’t do it” and “I’m not good enough” rippled round the room. Comparisons with other, ‘better’ practitioners in the room abounded, and I understood acutely that one of my pre-workshop suspicions was true: that my aims to inspire others by my own journey could actually achieve the opposite effect, due to the natural tendency for humans to compare themselves to others and find themselves lacking. More than anything else in the ashtanga journey, jump-throughs seem to foster a negative sense of not being content with where we’re at in our journey; not being able to lose attachment to the end-result.

I found this incredibly interesting. For this very reason, jump-throughs, along with any other posture that really challenges us, do hold an important part in the yoga journey. As soon as that negative voice in our head kicks in and starts berating us, telling us we’re not good enough as we are, will never be good enough blah blah blah, the usual negative nonsense…, we need to take a step backwards and observe what’s actually occurring. When we hear that nasty voice, it means we’re tapping into one of our most fundamental negative beliefs about ourselves, which usually comes down to some kind of fear if you delve deep enough. So jump-throughs, along with other seemingly unattainable postures, have the capacity to teach us so much about our negative patterns of behaviour.

And those patterns are so entrenched due to constant repetition. Instead we need to ‘change the record’. When you approach a jump-through and, for the umpteenth time, land heavily on your bum, instead of saying ‘I’m rubbish, I’ll never be able to do this’, try giving yourself some gratitude for being on the mat and having a go and instead say, ‘I might not be able to do it today, but I’m getting stronger with each one I try and I’m exactly where I need to be for now’. If you repeat this enough times eventually that voice in your head will change, or at least become quieter and you will more easily be able to take a rational step back and tell it to ‘shuss’!

So, overall I’m pleased I ran the workshop as it felt great to share all the various tips and advice I’ve been given over the years or that I’ve discovered through my own practice.  But I also now have loads of ideas about how to improve the format and change the focus for next time, to concentrate more on how to combat our negativity and change our mindset. I truly believe that a positive can-do attitude, above anything else, will dictate whether the jump-through happens to you or not. If you say it won’t ever happen, then no it won’t. But if you say that it might not happen today but you’ll keep practising and moving towards it, then that will carry through into your practice and one day, with dedication, you may well have lift-off!

And remember, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen! When you think about it, the world isn’t going to change if you can jump-through – life will continue just as before. Yoga is all about the journey, and what we learn about ourselves along the way; it isn’t about reaching an end-goal. Because then what? Someone just puts another ‘end-goal’ in front of you to reach! Enjoy where you are, and feel some love for the jump-through (or step-through), wherever you’re at with it, for what it can teach you about your deepest fears and negative beliefs, so that you can flip it to a more positive story to tell yourself… 🙂

jump through

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