Updated: Mar 16
A review of 'Yoga in the Kashmir Tradition: the art of listening' by Billy Doyle.
I started reading ‘Yoga in the Kashmir Tradition: the art of listening’ by Billy Doyle before the UK went into lockdown, not knowing that it would become a great resource and inspiration for teaching online breath meditation and yoga sessions, and also a form of comfort and guidance for my own yoga practice over the coming months.
The body harmonising with the mind is at the heart of a yoga practice, and yet we can spend a lifetime practising yoga and still not truly understand and achieve this synchronisation.
The book follows the teachings of Jean Klein and presents a series of exercises to give the body the opportunity to reveal its real nature as vibration, as subtle energy, as space. In order to awaken the subtle energies, we must first experience the body as sensation – for the real body is the energy body and not the physical body. Through visualisations and discovering our breath, and by letting go and listening, a new pattern can evolve in the body which will transform our practice to one that is not goal- and ego-driven, but one of harmony, joy and contentment.
Imagine dancing with a partner. You are both performing the routine by memory as it should be, but the dance is not alive and therefore has little meaning. Moving in unison is not the same as dancing. Instead, when the different parts of the body come alive, the dance is experienced in the moment, it is fresh and there is always joy, every time the dancers come to the dance floor.
As a child I enjoyed gymnastics, so my mind, the ego, is telling me I should be able to perform certain asanas, and therefore I push myself wanting perfection. Jean teaches us that we need to move away from existing patterns and old habits of resistance and heaviness in order to find a new feeling of spaciousness. Instead of pushing and only working the body on a muscular level, we should be releasing. This release and relaxation of the body-mind will allow us to go deeper into the posture.
Before I started my yoga journey, my body was full of emotional and muscular tension due to a bad time in my life and as a result of an injury. I came to yoga as a way of reducing back pain and bringing flexibility and strength back to my body. I feel that my progress has been good so far, and yet I often find myself focusing on the tensions in my body – the discomfort and the tightness – and my reaction is a feeling of frustration and sadness at my limitations. I have created a concept of the body, an idea which has become fixed in time. I began with a fear of backbends, a feeling which remains several years later, but I am able to release this negative tension and discover a body that feels light and free.
Lockdown worry and remote working has brought additional strain to the body, as well as the mind. My colleagues, friends and students feel this too and I hope my weekly breath meditation and yoga sessions are helping in a small way. Experiencing and then teaching many of the exercises within the book has been a pleasure, and I feel that I will dip into its content time and time again, understanding more of Jean’s approach every time I do.