Two weeks ago, I spent three days in a coaching fundamentals workshop, re-immersing myself in the basics of creating generative space in a one-on-one conversation. Last Sunday morning, I went to a yoga fundamentals class and immersed myself in the most essential elements of what happens inside our bodies when we focus on our shoulders for an hour.
In a flash of synchronicity, a friend of mine who is a coach — who trained in the same program I did the workshop in — showed up to my yoga class. She just moved into my neighbourhood but we hadn’t had a chance to see each other yet, but I’d sung the praises of my studio.
After class, I asked her what she’d thought — I’m always a little nervous about whether people I’ve recommended something to will like it. “It was amazing,” she said. “You have to be so. present. to do this kind of class — my mind never wandered.”
That comment really tied together both of those “fundamentals” experiences for me. Coaching isn’t my core work, but it’s an important aspect of it. I’ve developed my skills through a weave of different kinds of learning over two decades, ranging from facilitation training, a graduate certificate in dialogue, a phd in communication, lived experience and meditation teachings. But I’ve never done a core fundamentals workshop on this kind of really basic model. I’m a pretty good coach, but focusing for three days on the basics of simple questions, letting go of your own agenda, treating the other person as “creative, resourceful and whole,” surfacing the bottom line, being fully present to where they are — it reshaped my practice immediately. It made me examine where my mind wanders, how needlessly complex I can make things, how much my own beliefs influence what I hear. I had to face stuff that isn’t as seamless as I want to believe it is, and it changed me, almost immediately. I got more… patient, more present. And that brought a lot of joy to my work over the past couple of weeks.
That yoga class was the same. I do yoga fundamentals occasionally, but this one really focused me. This was a teacher I don’t go to very often (a sub for the usual teacher at this time, whom I don’t totally love), and she was … perfection. Every move was intentional. We focused on shoulders and upper arms, and I found my shoulder blades in new ways, felt ropiness I’m never in touch with, heard clicks and pops I’m not in tune with, struggled with holding my arms in warrior two in true, full presence. From the outside, we did very little that would look like “work”. Inside my body, I was fully involved and engaged in the experience — feeling my right arm so much more mobile when raising it to the side, ache in my shoulders when I folded my arms across my body and grasped my shoulder blades with my hands, trembling in my legs in a simple squat. I was IN my body in a way I rarely am, related to it differently. (And ached the next day).
(My friend Grace took pics of me doing some of our poses at the end of class. I don’t usually practice in a tshirt and socks but I was cold ;-).)
I’ve done a lot of yoga this year, and I’ve posted a lot about the experience. I’m trying to make meaning of this deep pull I have right now toward engaging so much in the kind of movement that emphasizes presence, stillness, a comfortable acquaintance with what’s *really* happening in my body. I think it’s part of a years-long shift toward movement that truly matches what I need — and really inquiring into what that need is.
When I was 30, running far and faster was what I needed, for a lot of reasons. Following a typical “10K training program” or another kind of externally defined program made sense, and served me well. But as I’ve navigated various injuries, gotten older, slowed down, gotten busier and more tired, what I “should” do according to some expert model doesn’t work. When I dabble in the bootcamp or barre classes in my gym, do a video HIIT workout, try to keep up with someone else’s running or cycling pace, it doesn’t work for me. I hurt myself, fall out of rhythm, just quit, fail.
What I seem to be discovering is that I need to reshape my deep listening to my body, find movement I can do for the remaining decades of my life, do the things that will strengthen me, not harm me. That’s an ongoing practice, not a one time definition. I’m pretty happy that I have gotten stronger in bridge poses, in balancing postures, in handstand this year. But the continual engagement with the fundamentals of things I think I already know — that’s what’s had the biggest impact on me. In my movement, in my work, and in my presence in the world.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto when she’s not wandering the world. She blogs here on the second Friday and third Saturday of every month, which weirdly fall on sequential days this year. Stay tuned for tomorrow!