When we experience a wobble in our feelings, thoughts or in our physical Yoga practice are we failing to do something correctly and are these wobbles a sign of us not doing well? Or are the wobbly bits us trying to figure out where our centre is. Is being a bit wobbly actually a really useful tool in helping us find our balance and help us learn, develop and grow?
I have recently started to become fascinated with the work of Yoga teacher Vanda Scaravelli (1908 – 1999). Scaravelli was a student of both B.K.S Iyengar and TKV Desikachar and her book ‘Awakening the Spine’ has been influential since it was first published in 1991.
You can always spot a Scaravelli Yoga teacher as they seem to effortlessly wiggle, drop and soften themselves into postures with such flow and ease.
There are no straight lines or hard edges, and no rigidly holding a ‘shape’. One Scaravelli teacher whose class I attended told us we should all try practicing outside on uneven ground in order to experience our weight and relationship to gravity through the wobbling. The wobbling is our body working to try and find it’s centre. When we find our centre we can drop our weight down with gravity and find balance completely effortlessly. If we don’t have a bit of a wobble we don’t find where our edges are and as a result won’t find our true centre.
If we rigidly hold ourselves in a shape that our mind has decided is ‘correct’ we create more muscle tension. This muscular holding and tension may block our ability to find and drop into our true centre and may end up reinforcing or even creating more blocks within the body. If we to hold poses using excessive muscular effort we might find we are cutting ourselves off from the flow and impulse of energy dropping down into the floor and rebounding back up. If mind affects body and body affects mind then the same could be said for our emotional and mental bodies – if we are rigid and fixed in our thinking and don’t attempt to find our edges and ‘wobble about’ then we may be missing an opportunity to connect to our true centre.
When things seem to fall apart a little bit and we wobble and fall over we sometimes think we are not doing well or not making progress. The feeling of not being in balance can be difficult and frustrating but according to philosopher and education theorist Jean Piaget, we must go into that state of unbalance and dis-equilibrium in order to learn and grow.
Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) was a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher. His theory about cognitive development and the way children learn said that in order to take on board new information the mind first has to come into state is dis-equilibrium. The new information is then accommodated and we can get back to equilibrium again.
His theory related specifically to the way children learn but I feel it can be useful for us all as life is just one big learning experience. We try to make sense of the world by using existing building blocks of knowledge or ‘schemas’ as he called them. Sometimes we can assimilate new information using our existing knowledge and stay in equilibrium. However sometimes new situations arise where our existing schemas do not fit and we can not make sense of the situation or new information. This sends us into a state of imbalance or disequilibrium.
Piaget believed that as human beings we are always seeking to bring ourselves back into balance and a state of equilibrium. This desire for balance compels us to rearrange and change our existing schema in order to accommodate the new knowledge. Bringing us back to a place of equilibrium.
So next time your find your self off balance unable to stand on one leg (or even two legs for that matter) allow yourself to wobble a bit and use the wobbles as an opportunity to learn and grow. Trust that because of the wobbling you will eventually come back to the balance of being in your centre.