This weekend I attended the follow-up to Ken the Rolfer’s initial Experiential Anatomy course and it was just as inspiring and illuminating as the first one.
I could listen to Ken talk for hours. His slow, relaxed drawl belies a fiercely sharp mind and fathomless depths of knowledge and experience. When his steady gaze meets mine as he speaks, I feel like he’s looking right inside me to my core, and I’m uncomfortably aware of the flurry of inane, frothy thoughts flitting across my mind. Conversely, I think life probably takes on a pretty mellow pace in Ken’s inner world, in the best possibly way.
I would highly recommend Ken’s course to any yogis and in particular ashtangis. It is a brilliant way to help you move from the realm of the physical and ‘doing’ (which includes the mind and all that thinking it can’t help but do) to the far more elusive inner world of energetics and ‘being’. Ashtanga is a very physical form of yoga, and it can take many years of dedicated practice to burn through the sheer physicality of its challenging asanas and start to penetrate some of its more subtle and, ultimately, more rewarding fruits. This has certainly been the case for me. I’ve been doing ashtanga for over eight years now, yet I would say it’s only been in the last two to three years that I’ve recognised (or, at least, admitted to myself) that it offers me so much more than a work-out!
Sure, the changes have been happening incrementally to me over the many years of a daily self-practice, but there’s certainly been a paradigm shift in how I view my practice in the last few years. This was no doubt kick-started by having some incredibly helpful energy therapy following a crash into depression a few years ago – as I emerged from the darkness, blinking at the light which I hadn’t seen for so long, it was like my life was a blank canvas and I could explore it from a fresh perspective; one which knew how lucky I was to be alive. Then the energy therapy opened my eyes to apparently esoteric subjects, which I had been increasingly drawn to over the years but had always denied myself. Instead I had always shut them firmly away into the cupboard of my mind labelled, ‘hippy nonsense’, even though deep down I longed to open that cupboard and explore its contents. And it was here that I was introduced to the work of Carl Jung, the power of the sub-conscious, the messages of dreams… So many things that fascinated me and resonated with me. It was like a feeling of coming home, having been lost, out in the cold, for so long.
So that was my first introduction into delving into the more subtle, energetic side of yoga, where such intriguing concepts like bandhas, chakras, prana and the five koshas rise to the fore. Since then, my practice has truly become my laboratory of self-exploration. The beauty of its repetition, day in, day out, is that it forces you to confront yourself in all your messy glory. You sail through the good days, weather the bad days and tolerate the ‘meh’ days – but through it all you start to build a bigger picture of who you are, you start to feel and speak your truth, you find strength to tackle the bad bits and allow yourself to celebrate the good bits. It’s certainly not an easy process, but it sure is a privilege to get to know yourself better.
But still my restless mind taunts me and prevents me from delving inside as far as I would like. There’s no way I’d ever want to switch my mind off – I love that it’s so active, enthusiastic and imaginative; it’s a big part of who I am. But I’d like to get better at shushing it up, to allow myself to sink into the calmness of dharana and dhyana from time to time. Such moments are increasing in number slowly, over time, but Ken’s course, alongside the Rolfing sessions, has felt like the next encouraging gentle shove in the ribs that I’ve needed to move further along this path of self-exploration.
The clue is in the name: ‘Experiential’ Anatomy. We’re not just learning the names of muscles and bones and hearing descriptions of the bandhas. We’re going inside ourselves and feeling it all for ourselves. This is really the crux of what Ken is teaching – to let go of the mind’s tenacious tendency to tell you how things are and, instead, to go within and allow the body’s innate intelligence and intuition to rise; to move from ‘sleeve’ doing to ‘core’ being.
Like anything, it feels strange and alien at first but, with practice, it becomes easier and easier because, really, it is just a journey back towards our natural state. And, with daily ashtanga, we have ample time to practise. I certainly have felt all kinds of shifts in my body, not to mention an increased ability to find that elusive calmness of mind, since attending the courses and being Rolfed. I’m starting to tune into myself at an even more subtle level – one where words aren’t needed, it’s all about sensations.
So, in conclusion, it feels like another door has opened and, as I walk through it and continue onward on my journey, I am excited to find out what wonderful new experiences and revelations are to come next… 🙂