Undoing yoga

with Nan Wishner

The Teachings of Vanda Scaravelli & Diane Long


What is Yoga?

In a nutshell: practicing yoga means resting down into gravity (especially through your feet when you are standing), undoing tension everywhere (especially in your joints and big muscles), and waiting for the rippling lightness that the earth will give back to undulate up your spine. 

That’s it.  It’s very simple.  And it’s the same in any pose or movement. 

Yet, as you will see if you try it, resting into gravity, waiting, and receiving the gift of lightness are much easier said than done.  Practicing yoga in this mindful way is, for me, much harder than trying to master difficult gymnastic postures. Practicing yoga without doing anything may be the hardest thing I have ever done (or, more accurately, not done).

Although not doing may seem simple, it is easier for most of us to do than to rest. When we do something, we can check it off our list and feel accomplished.  When we rest, we feel lazy, as if we are not earning our keep.  The result, for many of us, is endless, habitual doing, with rest (or pleasure) postponed until we do “just this one more thing” – laundry, phone calls, work obligations, shopping.  And there is always one more thing to do.

Having so many things to do may prevent us from even starting our yoga practice, or our practice itself can take on the flavor of habitual doing:  how many backbends did I do? I haven’t done enough if I don’t do at least one headstand or three sun salutations or 20 (or 30 or 60...) minutes of poses each day. You can probably add to this list your own favorite yoga goals or “shoulds.”

One of the wonders of distilling the focus of your yoga practice down to rest, surrender, and undoing is discovering the expansive experience of realizing you don’t have to do it all yourself, that something larger will move through you if you invite it. Glimpsing this experience is tremendously freeing and invigorating.

At the heart of practicing yoga is not doing poses but opening to the force of life – the thing that makes the waves flow toward shore, the water in a waterfall cascade downward and break back up in a spray – and inviting it to move through your being, the spine at the core of your physical structure.

                                                                              ©    Nan Wishner                       


by Tiffany Dow