Tias Little: Yoga of the Subtle Body
Tias Little's 5-day immersion into yoga of the subtle body has transformed my approach and attitude towards practicing yoga. Over the past year my knowledge and understanding of yoga has vastly but it's practical application has somewhat plateaued. Primarily because I've been trying to micromanage my yoga practice in the same way I try to organise my life. The focus has been on control- with both breath and body- leaving no room for release or a sense of Shavasana. The dharma teaches that our approach to yoga should be intimate, immediate, spontaneous and obvious. Yet when I micromanage my every movement on the mat there is no space to practice with a spirit of inquiry. There isn't a sense of the subtle sensations because I am simply going through the motions, controlling every pose and pre-empting how it should look and feel. In this state I miss the meditative quality that comes from practicing in the present. I am missing the moment on my mat just as much as I am in my everyday life: the details that distinguish one breath from the next and a sense of pranava: "always new, always arising."
"You can never step in the same river twice" or so the saying goes. Most of us experience this when travelling abroad as unfamiliar sounds, smells, sights and foods contribute to a sense of a 'new world.' Yet this is the akin to the awakening of the yogi: seeing things as always new and knowing that nothing is fixed. Subtle Body training helps to deepen this 'pure awareness' enabling you to see beyond the superimposed projections of the mind and out onto the ever-changing landscapes that constitute our lives. Simple, slow movements tap into the body’s sophisticated systems, so that you can really sense what is going on internally. It’s about noticing exactly which muscles enable you to move you into a side twist and the delicate differences between your right and left side. Instead of generalising the details with a broad brushstroke effect we put up a magnifying glass to extract all the evidence of these moment-to-moment changes! To use Tias’ words, we should approach our yoga practice like an artisan. This will enable us to see the choices and opportunities that lie beyond the confinement of habit loops, creating a freedom of heart and spirit, not caught up in routine ways of thinking.
This heightened sensitivity stayed with me long after I left the studio each evening, transforming my routine commute into a colourful adventure across the capital. I've tried to live my life along the lines of "carpe diem" - sieze the day! Yet now that I've sensed the subtle body I realise that I've not been seizing the day at all! I've been speeding right past it, thinking about the next day/month/year instead of being present with the moment I'm in. I've been missing the delicate details in downward dog because I've been more preoccupied with transitioning to the next pose, drowning out subtle sensations in order to feel like I've 'worked'. So as you can imagine, moving slowly was a real challenge for someone who's spent the past 25 years in the fast lane! It takes training to get in touch with these fine, delicate and fragile experiences and therefore even the shift from fast-to-slow has to be done with patience and persistence. Time to dance to the rhythms of the body rather than the ruminations of the mind!
Training with Tias Little and his wonderful team was a real honour: they live and breathe the work they teach and as a result were totally in tune with the different energies in the room. Even though there were almost 40 people in the group, the workshop felt very personal and intimate because the team constantly offered individual adjustments and suggestions. This attention to detail- on and off the mat- highlights the power of subtle body training, as Tias and his team were able to sense the needs of everyone in room. During the final day of the course my ego decided to join in with my practice when I was struggling to find stability in my headstand. Not only did my ego start to tell me how rubbish I was but another level of my consciousness started to self-criticise for allowing ego into the practice in the first place! Overwhelmed and frustrated by the ramblings of my mind I started to well up (which further annoyed my ego on many levels!) In spite of all the excitement in the room Tias must have sensed that I was struggling, because he came over and checked in with how I was doing. His receptive and relatable style breaks down the student-teacher hierarchy because there’s a real sense that Tias is both the teacher and the student: always open and always learning.
Slowing down has enabled me to tune in to my internal space, deeply listening to the subtleties in body and mind. It's heightened my sensitivity and reinvigorated my passion for the practice. To use Pico Iyer’s words "in a age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than slowing down." Slowing down in order to fully participate in the journey, rather than rushing from pose to pose. Staying fully present, instead of pushing through to the end. Discerning the detail so that you can understand the mechanics of the body and the movements of the mind.
For details of Tias Little's books, trainings and future workshops then visit Pranja yoga's website: