Are you a human-doing or a human-being? Kat Farrants, founder of Movement for Modern Life, shares her yoga story from dynamite Ashtangi to contended Yin Yogini.
I got into Yoga via Ashtanga. That’s a swift-moving kind of yoga which is very athletic, and frankly, for Kat in her early-twenties, it was just ideal! There’s no way that I’d have been able to sit still. I was young and buzzing with energy that I didn’t know what to do with and always seemed to manifest in somewhat inappropriate ways.
So the best way to calm a teenager’s mind? Probably not meditation (which just drove me bonkers) but Ashtanga was just perfect. After a 90 minute class my nerves would feel sufficiently calmed that I could sit still for a moment or two. And then off I bounced again…
And my Ashtanga practice served me very well! I really enjoyed the challenge of getting into different shapes, I enjoyed setting goals for myself of ‘achieving’ a pose. I was always a pretty Type A personality, driven by a love of achievement and at a loss as to why people were lying around when there was so much to do!
My Ashtanga yoga then morphed into a Vinyasa practice, which I still enjoy, but which I was absolutely passionate about. I used to teach Vinyasa, and loved the dance-like movements, which felt so liberating after the very linear seeming approach of Ashtanga.
Studying with Shiva-Ray, one of the big name proponents of Vinyasa, her yoga seemed so fluid and soft, she ‘invented’ the dancing warrior, a much more fluid variation of the Ashtanga Warrior 1, 2 and 3, which is now seen on a day to day basis in most vinyasa classes. And I couldn’t get enough of it. So creative, so expressive and such a good workout (yes, I was that spiritual).
All Good Things . . .
And like most good things in life, it ended. For me, fairly abruptly with a move to the countryside so I left my teachers (and my yoga DVD was getting worn out), followed by a car crash which meant that I lost a lot of my movement.
Broken ribs, fractured vertebrae and a punctured lung certainly wasn’t conducive to my practice. Whereas before I’d breathed deeply and lay on my back for solace, I couldn’t even do that. So I ended up hating myself and my body and instead of doing what I could, I was just in denial that I even existed at all.
That was then.
Time has marched on and now it’s not only those old injuries that have lessened my love of Vinyasa, but several newer ones too.
Too Many Deadlines
Like most people, I work too hard, take life too seriously and get stressed. My old self would shrug off the stress by practicing long and hard and setting myself new pose goals. But isn’t it funny that on the mat we automatically go to do exactly the same thing that’s causing stress off the mat?
Too many goals and deadlines? Just set new ones on the mat. For those Type A’s who are busy busy, over-worked, stressed out, over-wrought – I see you!
I know that you’re there in front of the class achieving poses like you achieved your deadlines that day. I see you on Instagram, showing the world your ‘progress’. Those guys in the one-armed handstands, you do look amazing. And I know how it feels – it feels simply awesome, like being king or queen of the world!
But life is just as joyous by experiencing it from the inside out. Whether you continue your wild poses or not!
What You Need or What You Want?
Sometimes we choose not what we need, but what we want. Our over-achieving minds are screaming for achievement, but our spirit yearns for calm.
I found out that after all those decades of achieving yoga poses, I hadn’t achieved a thing – when my body didn’t work? It all broke down. The reason why It broke down for me so spectacularly after my accident was that my yoga was only about achievement, not about living an embodied life.
As one of the first Yin teachers in the UK, Norman Blair explains it, quoting James Joyce ‘Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body’.
Yin in PJs
Now, my yoga practice is a therapeutic relief from feeling over-worked, stressed out and sitting too long hunched over at a desk. It is a therapeutic practice for my hunched up body as well as for my mind.
I practice yoga to feel focus and get back into my body. And the last thing that I want is any critical thinking about right or wrong. Which is why home yoga suits me so well right now. I can yin in my PJ’s at the end of the day to get ready for bed. I don’t have to wait all night to eat, as I can practice many Yin poses after dinner (and some even help with digestion). In the morning, if I haven’t slept brilliantly, I can Yin myself into the day gently. I can even Yin in bed.
What is Yin?!
And by this stage, you may well be asking – what is Yin? It’s simply yoga poses which are held for much longer than they are in a usual class. Whereas I often used to leave yoga classes feeling positively wired – yes, uplifted, but a million miles away from my body.
With Yin, I feel more contented, more embodied, more focused and ready for mediation.
Yin at Home
There aren’t that many Yin classes in studios or gyms, so many people don’t know about the secrets which unfold from Yin. And that’s because, in the middle of the day, when the mind is busy and body is jittery, it just wouldn’t be a fun thing to do.
But for a home practice? To unfurl in bed with? To prepare for sleep?
Holding stretches for a long time, whilst listening to my teacher talking about yogic philosophy, is a wonderful way to prepare me for meditation or to calm me for sleep. I even believe that practicing yin makes us more focused, more contented, more conscious human beings – we allow ourselves to go from human doing to human being.
We drop the ego, there’s nobody looking, there’s no goals, it’s an inner practice. Which is maybe why I love it especially when men discover yin.
I’m off now – back to Yin!