One of my most trusted Clubbell Yoga ambassadors in Seattle, Dana Llewellyn shares some insight on how training flow has altered her perspective on why we train. Don't miss our upcoming Clubbell Yoga workshop at Bala Yoga in Fremont, [THIS SUNDAY 1-3pm!] to experience the Flow First hand. Thank you Dana for your thoughtful contribution to why we train Flow & Movement (versus just poses and exercises). Also check out Dana's Brand Spanken' NEW Website FlowStateFitness.club for local offerings.
Rather unexpectedly, journeying farther into the fitness industry as a growing professional has me contemplating things out of this world. One would think that the more time I spend working with bodies and refining my own techniques would inevitably and effectually root my outlook in the physical plane. However, the more I practice, educate myself, and find my own flow - not only in fitness but in life itself - the more prone I am to exploring ideas and practices beyond the physical realm. My own hustle has been real these days: starting up my own personal training business, writing programs, presenting workshops, and establishing myself as a legitimate professional with knowledge and passion. I have a strong desire for the work I do to be highly effective, long lasting and deeply meaningful. As I navigate my career and delve deeper into my own training, I keep getting drawn back into the idea of flowstate; of finding those moments where I’m using my physical body to channel some intangible mechanism, briefly fitting into something larger than myself. Tapping into this feeling always leaves me wanting more because it is in those moments that I can really feel the deeper meaning of why I’ve chosen fitness as a career path.
Since my exodus from school, I’ve found myself with more time and freedom to do some reading and research into non-curriculum materials. Eventually, I stumbled across Ram Dass, a spiritual leader whose teachings are just beginning to emerge in my own personal awareness. I was recently struck by a passage in Ram Dass’ book, “Be Here Now”, about the physical practice of yoga, or the Asanas.
“You work with your body for some very obvious reasons. First, it is the environment in which you dwell in this incarnation on the physical plane. Second, unless you can cool out your body, it keeps on capturing your attention over and over again and thus distracts you from the one-pointedness of mind that you are seeking. Third, to work with the body energies and to be able to move such energies up the spine requires sensitization to nerves in the body of which most people are unaware. Until you can hear your body, you cannot bring it under voluntary control…fourth, a yogi realizes that the message of his being is
reflected in all manifestations and he seeks the power of the one-pointedness that comes from having his body as well as his thoughts directed towards the state of realization…for a realized being, every movement is a perfect statement.”
Let’s explore these points in detail.
1) “It is the environment in which you dwell in this incarnation on the physical plane”
Our body is a molecular formula. Whether you believe we were deliberately crafted or indiscriminately formed, the fact remains that our bodies are mainly a throng of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous with a few other goodies sprinkled in. Yet interwoven into our chemical equation is something beyond the carnal: awareness, intellect, competency… dare I say it? Consciousness! A dichotomy exists between the awareness we perceive as ourselves and the bodies that house this awareness. Think about it like this: These bodies in which we traipse about are like meat antennae, sending electric signals up and down a chemical stew to produce movements that create habits that create lives.
2) “Unless you can cool out your body, it keeps on capturing your attention over and over again and this distracts you from the one-pointedness of mind that you are seeking”
Chemical stew aside, I find myself here, on the third planet from the sun, sometimes hungry, sometimes thirsty, sometimes happy, sometimes sad. I can go on and on about consciousness and meat antennae and yada yada, but eventually my body will always find a way nudge my awareness back to earth with a grumbling stomach, a blink, or a yawn. The greek philosopher Proclus writes “Man is a little world…he possesses both mind and reason, both a divine and a mortal body”. So, a body is a body, a mind is a mind. Indeed. But…we CAN bridge this separation through manipulation of the physical plane to connect with something deeper and find a oneness, if only for a few moments, between the two. If I could bail on this gravity nonsense and blast myself into the astral plane, soaring unattached and unhindered, wouldn’t that be rad? But, alas, here I am; typing with fingers, seeing with eyes, tethered to a giant spinning rock by an unseen force. So, working with what I have, how can I learn to “cool out my body”, as it were, as a way to get closer to that sort oneness between my consciousness and my carnality? Only through intentional and constant efforts can this oneness be achieved.
3) “To work with the body energies and to be able to move such energies up the spine requires sensitization to nerves in the body of which most people are unaware. Until you can hear your body, you cannot bring it under voluntary control”
As I start to delve into different philosophies of eastern mysticism through my almost exclusively westernized point of view, my head does sometimes spin, both intrigued and baffled. In order to manage the spinning, I have started to direct my attention and will to stopping, listening and acting accordingly. Though my body will eventually be nothing but dust, it isn’t quite yet. Perhaps it has something to tell me in the meantime. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two from the stopping and listening, remaining rooted in the here and now (mindfulness). And it is here that we find ourselves at the proverbial bridge the bridge: the bridge between the mind and the body, the consciousness and the carnal, the divine and the mortal. Hear it, listen to it, acknowledge it, respect it, and perhaps you may even control it. You will find that through intentional regard and mindful response to your own little chemical stew, you can manipulate your physical circumstances in a way that quiets that intrigued and baffled chatter of the mind, directing its energy towards moving as one with your quantifiable figure.
4) “A yogi realizes that the message of his being is reflected in all manifestations and he seeks the power of the one-pointedness that comes from having his body as well as his thoughts directed towards the state of realization”
At the fourth point, the gap between body and mind has been bridged through careful listening and mindful response. Sweet harmony! I claim no enlightenment, and I am still very much struggling with and working towards this harmony, but the idea is indeed striking: for mind and body to function as one. Not arbitrarily…but getting on together TOWARDS something effective, long lasting and deeply meaningful. I work with bodies not just for the sake of physique, not just for a paycheck, not just for cool Instagram pictures. I work with bodies because from time to time I can facilitate, in myself and in others, in the words of the aforementioned Ram Dass “a profound metamorphosis…calmness, sensitivity and lightness”.
It is my hope as I continue to establish myself as a personal trainer and movement coach that those whose paths cross with mine will not simply ask how they can get stellar abs or toned arms, though that is certainly something that the work I do can offer. My hope is that there is a sort of calmness or centeredness in the seeking of unity that will attract people to practice and explore with me. I am still very much on the journey—make no mistake about it. But I’m finding through careful examination of why I do what I do, is that yoga, strength and conditioning can be conduits for something out of this world, though born of it. That is what I hope to share with my fellow travelers.
Big thank you to Dana for her post, and helping get the word out about Clubbell Yoga in Seattle. Big thank you to Gabriella and Bala Yoga Studio for inviting us to do a new style of workshop for your yogis...
Engaged in the movement toward more functional fitness. Mama, entrepreneur, leader, mentor, and co-creator of Clubbell Yoga.
Co-Creator of Clubbell Yoga, Movement & Performance Specialist, Head Coach at RMAX International