Flirting With Yoga

Flirting is all about space. Give too much space and there is no opportunity for intimacy. Give not enough space and it is perceived as threatening. Flirtation involves moving closer, but not too close, in a way that is fun and friendly. A great flirt is one who gets away with saying and doing things that would normally be considered inappropriate.


For years I have been using this analogy in my yoga classes: You should be flirting with the postures.


elephant love


I have been teaching yoga full time for nearly twenty years and in that time I have seen so many different approaches to practicing postures. Some people really ‘hit’ the postures. They dive in and just go for it. Super deep and sometimes aggressive. And some people are extremely tentative. They dip their toe in the pool. They hesitate, doubt and question. And both these approaches to the postures can be, at times, appropriate.


But more often than not the best way is the middle way. Neither tentative nor forceful, but somewhere down the middle lies the way of the flirt. Flirting with the postures involves discovering the effort that will provide some juicy energy in the postures while maintaining the ease that will keep everything cool and safe.


The postures are like pick-up lines. They are tools that we can use to approach the body in order to become more intimate with ourselves.


Patanjali, the mythical author of the Yoga Sutras, was also a bit of a flirt. In some of the very few things he had to say about postures, he advised:


prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam (YS 2.47)


Because the above quote from the sutras contains no verbs it is difficult to produce a direct translation. Word-for-word it means “effort relaxation bliss coming together.” Fascinating, huh? We are left to try to piece together some kind of meaning for ourselves. I suspect that the old flirt was suggesting that when your efforts are relaxed enough that they start to feel effortless, the vibes get really nice.


This is a kind of effortless effort. There is an intention, and yet there is no sense of urgency. Things can move along at a natural pace.


So lets say you see this beautiful body. It is truly magnificent and will do anything for you. It is radiant, filled with life and love. It is honest, loyal, kind, and loves to touch and be touched. It is your body. So you know each other pretty well, but you have been neglecting it. You have been so busy with work, family, and obligations that you haven’t given it the attention it deserves. As a result, sometimes it feels a little cold and distant. But tonight is the night. It is time to rekindle the flame.


You don’t just mosey on over and say “lets get naked.” You don’t expect the body to just suddenly open itself in its fullest expression of vulnerability and tenderness at a moments notice. Just because you are ready does not mean the body is ready.


Try just making eye contact first. Start with a really gentle posture. Something totally non-threatening, but allows you to make a connection. See how the body responds. Does it relax into that opening? Does it smile? Did you make it nervous? You may need to stay at a safe distance for some time. Your body will let you know when it is safe to come closer. It will noticeably soften and relax into your advances.


Offer to buy it a drink. Do something kind and generous for your body. Get some bolsters and blankets and offer the body some support. Do the things your body loves to do. Move, stretch, and breathe in the ways that give your body a sense of enjoyment. Don’t push postures on your body. Offer them instead.


Dance with the body. Laugh with the body. Talk with the body. Ask the body what it likes. Take the time to listen. Bodies don’t speak English so you need to pay close attention and learn to speak body language. Feel the beating of the heart, and expansion and contraction of the lungs, the vascular pulsations, the neuronal currents, the open spaces and old wounds. It is so beautiful just to listen. Give the body all the time it needs.


The postures, these tools for physical self-intimacy, are not all created equal. Some of them are a big ask for a body that has been at a desk all day. Some of them are like foreplay. And some of them are playful little flirts. Learn to use these tools skilfully, and your body will be going home with you tonight.

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