When I first started practicing yoga, teachers would say things like “What’s happening in your baby toe in this pose?” Or, “Where is your breath right now?”
For a long time, I had no idea how to respond to those questions. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone could. I thought the questions were more metaphorical than anything, so far removed from my own body was I.
Over time, though, the questions started to work on me. The more I explored them, the more I began a conversation with my body and being, learning about what worked for me in a pose and what didn’t, how I responded when something was challenging — or delightful, what my thought patterns were when I tried something new, how to bring myself back to center (physically and mentally), and more.
I’ve found that an attitude of curiosity is one of the most important things we can bring to a yoga practice because it’s from there that possibility awakens. And I’ve also found that this is precisely how we can deepen our practice, because it’s a process that takes us into more connection with ourselves, no matter how our body or ability to do a certain pose changes over time.
The questions in this book can be used in many ways. You might apply them to one pose, or to an entire practice. You could print out the page with the question you want to work with on it and lay it on your mat. You could jot them all down in a notebook and see what strikes you. You could freewrite or journal about the question before, during or after your practice. That’s the thing about questions — there are so many different ways to use them.
There are 30 questions in this guide, so you could practice with one per day, week or even month. There’s also a variety so you can find what speaks to you now and leave the rest, which might be right for you at another time.
In my own experience, how I work with questions in my practice changes. Some days I find working with one in multiple ways is powerful. Other days I’m just not into it at all. Other days still I might throw a few in the mix, or only consider a question at the end of my practice. There’s no right or wrong way into this; each question is simply an invitation to explore the response that arises within you (including no response, which happens sometimes). As you explore the questions, remember that they have multiple contexts. You might approach one question from the angle of your body and then have an answer arise about your thoughts or feelings. That’s the beauty of questions; you get to see what arises with curiosity instead of presupposition.
Both yoga and body acceptance are practices of a lifetime, ever unfolding new layers of ourselves to ourselves, and the process of inquiry is one way into those layers. Like I found myself, you may notice that you don’t understand some of the questions the first time you read or work with them. While that may mean you want to move onto another one, it’s also okay not to be sure what it means, or to be sure you do know what it means and then find yourself surprised. I believe this is both how questions work and why they’re so powerful: they bring something new to us each time we work with them because they’re asking us to be present with what is.
As Rilke says, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”