This spring, we had the joy of learning from Annie Carpenter at our Bondi and Fitzroy studios!
Annie created her school, SmartFlow Yoga, 15 years ago and is lovingly known as ‘The Teacher’s Teacher’. Having spent long periods of time practising and studying Integral, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga, Annie believes that there are many wonderful approaches to the practice and that we will all find exactly what we need as our lives and bodies evolve.
The commitment to practice is the essence. What we practice will expand and mature.
One lesson from Annie’s training particularly drove this home for me when she had us consider the possibilities that arise when we stay still for a little longer.
We’ve all been there. Holding Warrior 2, quad trembling, breath heavy, sweat dripping. “One more round of breath…!” the teacher directs, and the end of that last exhale can’t come soon enough. As much as we love a flowing, dynamic Vinyasa class, there are gifts in those moments when we stay in longer holds. When we remain in the pose for longer than we may want to, giving the shape the chance to reveal its lessons to us.
Sometimes the lesson could be as simple as realising you are stronger than you think. On other days, the lesson could be to listen to your body and rest. If you cannot keep a smooth, steady cadence of breath, can you allow yourself to take a step back so you can return to a place of equanimity and calm? Or are you always pushing for more?
Remaining in poses for longer holds helps us feel that dance of steadiness and ease, or what yogis refer to as sthira sukha. Where is that edge of finding our strength, while not over-efforting in ways we don’t need to?
Finding sthira sukha, finding balance, changes from day to day, class to class, pose to pose.
In practising staying a little longer, you might consider some of the following:
- Can I stay when things get hard?
- Can I listen to myself in deeper and more subtle ways? What do I need today?
- Can I find the quiet even in intense poses?
- Can I remain steady and calm through the poses I love and the poses I find difficult?
In our modern world, we are so often continually on the go, overworking ourselves and moving from one thing to the next without pause. Yoga offers us a welcome contrast to the rest of our lives. Repeatedly moving on too quickly to the next thing can keep us from experiencing true joy, true peace, and true presence. When we allow ourselves to stay in stillness, stay in the pose perhaps a little longer than we are habitually comfortable with, that’s when the magic of yoga can unfold. If we stay still long enough, we might also discover more about ourselves. This is another deeper practice of yoga – self-study, or svadhyaya.
Before rushing into the new year with all the new things you want to start doing straight away, consider slowing down, pausing, and asking yourself:
- What’s here right now?
- What am I grateful for right now?
- What is already unfolding in front of me?
Yoga offers us these practices that bring us back to the present moment over and over again. If we want to explore the line of sthira sukha, all that is required is that we keep unrolling our yoga mats and finding ease in the uneasy.
Annie’s SmartFlow training was a wonderful reminder that oftentimes advancing our practice doesn’t mean mastering handstands or pincha mayurasana (forearm stand)!
“While we may be practising more ‘advanced’ asana, the advancing of our practice is actually revealed by sustained subtle focus and the inclusion of more limbs of yoga,” says Annie.
Advancing our practice might mean softening in the times when we’d usually keep pushing. It could mean adding pranayama to the end of our yoga classes. It could mean using the questions above as journaling prompts, practicing svadhyaya. Or, it might mean simply staying still for longer and making it to our mats more consistently.
We hope you’ll join us in 2023 (or continue to join us!), deepening your understanding of this beautiful practice together with us.
You can join our Head of Education and Lead Teacher Trainer, Gina Brescianini, for another Annie Carpenter Movement Masterclass training utilising SmartFlow Principles in 2023! You can also find her teaching SmartFlow-themed classes in our Bondi & Manly studios.
Written by Katie Tetz
Studio Business Manager | Ever Inspiring Writer & Yoga Teacher for Power Living Australia
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