Structure + Freedom
In thinking about this first theme of our studio, I keep getting lost in the image of how plants grow. The process of how a seed can sprout and bloom into a wild flower. How the trees can grow for years, lay dormant through the whole winter, and then courageously expand outward again with fresh new bursts of green once it senses the weather turning warm. I think about the detail nature has - the DNA in every seed, in every vine, in every branch, and in every creature. How we’re each brought into this life with the same structure - to be born from some small tiny, seemingly insignificant spec of something only to grow patiently, assuredly into our own unique beings, in our own time. How is it possible that so much information can be so carefully laid out within everything? And even more, how is it possible that we can all have such similar structures within our foundation, but still grow to be so wildly different?
It’s my favorite cycle to follow - to observe how different a thing is only to find within those differences how similar it is to something else. We have the structural foundation within us, telling our cells to grow and evolve and move and change as a human beings (with all the evolutionary details of the past included), but then we each take that information and beyond our DNA we become completely unique individuals, with our own perspectives, experiences, and lived stories born out of our own will power and desire. It’s overwhelming to think about it in some ways, because the possibilities born out of our same structure are so endless, and yet we all have skin, organs, breath, senses, imagination, creativity, desire, love… We can expand the perspective to see our vast differences, and contract it all the way back to our shared similarities.
My background started in graphic design, and one of the things I learned in design school is that in order for something to make sense it needs to have boundaries. A problem cannot have endless possible solutions, because eventually the solution won’t make sense for that problem. But once you look at the problem, or the thing you’re trying to solve, and you set up those boundaries by determining the purpose, the story, and the reason behind the problem, the solution comes naturally. The way out of the problem is born within the qualities of the problem itself.
These bodies that contain us, that hold us together and that hold all of the experiences of our lives, not only give us our boundaries, but also allow us limitless possibilities of imagination, creation, sensation….When we yearn for something we can become satiated and fulfilled by the power of our bodies and minds - our freedom. When we ache in pain, our lived wisdom and ancestral DNA will work to heal us, physically and emotionally - our structure. Through the container of our bodies, we are given endless possibilities to feel and experience - and through them our story unfolds, our purpose is lived, our reason for being is expressed.
It’s here I start to think about yoga. I think about how within each of our structural frames, our bones have all grown to be different, our muscles are all not the same, and how from those differences, we can each experience the freedom of the yoga practice in our own unique way. I think about setting the body into a pose, breathing into that pose, and then finding even more openness, even more possibility through release by having put the body into a specific, structural form. I think about how through that physical opening of the body in these poses can then effect the chemical structure of our bodies to feel more freedom - freedom from anxiety, depression, emotional instability, exhaustion, improper digestion, headaches, and so much more…
I think about the breath and the structure of the inhale and exhale. How we can all be moving and shifting and transforming or sitting stagnant, and our breath still allows us to find freedom - not just by bringing in new necessary oxygen, but also by releasing stale, unnecessary carbon dioxide, and all the emotional and chemical baggage that goes with it. How we can all require breath to survive, but some of us go without breathing for several seconds at a time, some of us breathe in short rapid succession, some of us breathe deeply naturally. How we can all be sitting in a room together, and our quality of breath may all be completely different, although we’re all still breathing.
Structure and freedom are simply two sides of the same coin. At times one is more necessary than the other, at times one is more felt than the other. But consider this - what in your life has you feeling constrained? How is it allowing you freedom in another area of your life? What in your life has you feeling free? How is it bringing more structure to another area of your life? What boundaries have you set in order for you to discover or uncover boundlessness in another way?
These are all things I’ve been thinking about for our first ever theme for the studio. And in a way, it’s a perfect concept to begin with. The purpose behind creating monthly themes was born out of the desire to unify all the YES teachers within the differences of our teaching styles and backgrounds. To bring a collective focus into all of our varied experiences - on and off the mat, in and out of the studio... And there it is again - unity in diversity, which is just another way a viewing structure and freedom. It seems it must be the the balance we carry with us through everything.