Do we ever stop learning new things? Or maybe the question should be: should we stop learning? September seems to be the unofficial learning month and it will be here before you know it. Most of us went back to school in September when we were kids and young adults. As some of you know, my kids are home-schooled (well actually, they are un-schooled but that is a whole other post), but it still feels like something new is supposed to happen in September. Part of it is the weather. Part of it is how our culture is structured. As kids, we are often forced to be in a learning environment. As adults, we can chose to be in one.
In yoga, being in learning mode is more about being in receiving mode. There are distinct and opposing energetic states, receiving energy and prana and transmitting energy and prana. Prana loosely translates to “life force.” Here, I will use the words energy and prana interchangeably. Receiving is listening, observing, and paying attention. Transmitting is talking, reacting to stimulus, thinking, processing ideas. The former appears more passive, yes? So why is it so difficult? How often do you find yourself in a conversation with another person when you are “supposed” to be listening to what they are saying, but you are actually thinking about what you want to say? Or find yourself in yoga thinking about what happened before class or where you are going after?
It seems that it should be easy to just turn off your transmitting and receive information, energy, life force, but it is anything but. Receiving is not about taking energy away from others nor is it a selfish pursuit. What it really means is practicing patience and observing without reacting or judging what is happening around you. Why is this important? Because I believe that we are wasting (transmitting) energy most of the time. Spewing it out in every direction without thought or purpose. This leaves many of us in a state of depletion. In yoga practice this is called leaking prana. Worrying, anxiety, and stress are all symptoms of leaking prana. Yoga practice is all about learning how to direct and conserve energy. Being efficient with your movements conserves energy. Focusing on the breath and focusing the eyes keeps your energy directed rather than shooting all over the place. The locks are literally that. The purpose of the locks is to help contain the energy in the body and direct it upwards. This has a lightening and stabilizing effect on body and mind.
So what does all this talk about prana and energy have to do with learning and receiving?? In order to really learn something, you must focus on it. It is as simple as that. Someone once said to me, “You can do anything you want but you can’t do everything you want all at once.” And what I have found is, I can’t do everything at once and do any of it thoroughly or well. Leaking prana is spinning your wheels. Leaking prana is multi-tasking and therefore getting nothing done particularly well. Being in learning or receiving mode means focusing on what you are doing right in the moment. It means paying attention to what is happening around you right in the moment. It means really listening to what others are saying to you. It means really focusing on that one thing you are trying to learn in that moment. Learning does not happen overnight, it happens over a period of time because of dedication and practice and focus. Many people ask me for shortcuts to postures, or ways they can correct or “work on” a particular part of their body. My answer is always a variation of one of Elliott’s favorite quotes by Shri K Pattabhi Jois, “Practice and all is coming.” He also said, “Yoga is 99 percent practice and 1 percent theory.” I read that as, yoga is about learning and listening and observing and doing, not about thinking, worrying, and processing. Yoga practice gives you the tools you need to begin the learning process. Hope to see you on the mat soon!