Raglan Rest & Reset

Yoga-2-Go Workshop

Already know you want it? Book and pay online here.

Need some self care?

That’s OK, we got you! At an amazing serene location in Greenslade Rd, Raglan, we’ll treat you to an afternnon immersed in working out your chill down. We’ll teach you how to take that stressed, rushed, excited racing around and convert that energy to grounded, calm, purposeful living.

If you’re an “active-relaxer” who struggles with slow, this workshop is for you. If you savour the chill but can’t get there right now, this workshop is also for you.

  • Breathing techniques & basic pranayama
  • Yoga-2-Go techniques to calm stress energy and pull it to your belly where you can use it to your advantage
  • Short guided relaxation
  • Restorative yoga techniques
  • Yoga Nidra (deep guided relaxation)
  • Do-in (a self massage working the meridians)

We’ll give you a workbook outlining the techniques and practices in detail to empower you to rest and reset whenever you need to!

Your spot is here … waiting for you!

Book and pay online here.

Alternatively fill in the form below and we’ll sort your booking and send you a link to pay. Places are limited and your spot is not secured until you have paid.

Stillness in Movement; Movement in Stillness. Part 1

Stillness in Movement

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

The class laughs at my instruction: “Don’t move the knee that we’re not moving”.

Yes, it’s funny when it’s put that way, but the principle of not moving the bit we’re not moving, or, put more poetically stillness in movement, is fundamental to yoga. And also to all other forms of our body’s movement through life.

Why is this so important?

  1. Working the “hard part”
  2. Bodily integrity
  3. Building proprioception
  4. Efficiency
  5. Letting go

Working the “Hard Part”

This looms large in yoga, because there’s often nowhere to hide in a technique. What do I mean by the “hard part” and having “somewhere to hide”, anyway?

So, by talking about the hard part I mean those parts of ourselves that we coddle and protect and turn ourselves inside out (literally and metaphorically) to not move. Like so much of engrained human behaviour, this makes sense on an evolutionary level as a solution in the moment, but not when it goes on for years. It might be the site of an injury (physical or emotional or both) and our body knows that place is unreliable and causes pain. So, we build a scaffold around ourselves to avoid having to rely on that part. It becomes so much a part of use, that after a time we don’t even see the scaffold anymore.

Wrapped in scaffolding long enough, we don’t even see the mish-mash of compromising support we rely on, year after year.

The scaffolding protects us in the short term, but in the long – medium term we need to work on structural integrity and stand on our own two feet (literally and metaphorically!).

Among my many injuries (which I consider part of the embodied Taonga of my 46 years on the planet) is a long undiagnosed chip at the end of my femur which ended up in my knee as a “joint mouse”. When the initial injury calmed down, I had ongoing knee pain for years and years as the mouse scurried around in the joint, nesting harmlessly some times, causing havoc other times.

My body learned not to trust my left knee. This is one of my “hard parts”. Coddling and protecting the knee, kept me running and working in the short term. Evolutionarily speaking, I could get away from a lion should I need to, but in the long term not working the hard part was doing me harm. It caused my right leg to over develop and the left to atrophy. My right knee has much worse arthritis than the left as it’s been taking all my weight for decades. It made my hips uneven, tightened the psoas and played all hell with my back.

Now, I don’t limp. I’ve become a master of compensation, co-option and disguise – a con artist, really. The rest of my body is part of the conspiracy to keep the hard part hidden.

But on the mat there’s nowhere to hide. Consider the technique I referenced at the beginning of this piece. When I stretch each side of the psoas, I only move the knee that is meant to move and do not move the knee that’s staying still. Practicing this technique, the hard part, the fragile part, that bit I do everything to hide away, that bit (the left side of my psoas) is exposed to the light. If I slide my foot around to protect it, it’s obvious. If I slide my body, my other knee moves in the air. The technique is set up so I can’t compensate or co-opt with other parts of my body. Any attempt at disguise is foiled.

Stretching my left psoas, only moving my left knee and focusing on the stillness everywhere else, forces me to work into the “hard place” of an old injury that would otherwise remain hidden.

This isn’t easy and I think is a large part of why yoga is perceived as difficult. But, really, what you need to do is work your own range of movement in the bit we’re moving, only and accept what that range of movement is today without some artificial, external idea of what it should be. So, it is part of why we need to approach yoga with self-compassion and put away competition. Because when we’re not piling on the pressure, we can make space to work on our more fragile hidden parts that lie beyond the scaffolding we erect around ourselves just to get through the day.

So, working the hard parts and having nowhere to hide by having stillness in movement is one reason why yoga is difficult. It is also one reason why yoga is essential.

Follow this blog to have the next post in this series delivered to your inbox – Stillness in Movement: Bodily Integrity

Rest and Reset: Ruby Bay, Nelson

Yoga-2-Go Workshop

Already know what you want? Book and pay online here.

Do you need a reset after the chaos of Christmas? Do you deserve a really good rest this holidays?

That’s OK, we got you! Nestled in the seaside community of Ruby Bay, the Wee Wellbeing Studio is the perfect spot to unwind and reset. We’ll teach you how to take all that stressed, rushed, excited racing around and convert that energy to grounded, calm, purposeful living. Look forward to bringing that calm joy with you into the New Year and beyond!

If you’re an “active-relaxer” who struggles with slow, this workshop is for you. If you savour the chill but can’t get there right now, this workshop is also for you. No prior yoga experience is necessary. This workshop would make a fabulous gift for that someone in your life who deserves some special care and attention.

Yoga-2-Go puts the work in workshop, so what’ll we work in this one?

  • Embodied stress testing
  • Breathing/some basic pranayama
  • Yoga-2-Go techniques to calm stress energy and pull it to your belly where it empowers you
  • Short guided relaxations
  • Restorative yoga techniques
  • Yoga Nidra

You’ll even take home a workbook outlining the techniques and practices in detail to empower you to rest and reset whenever you need to!

Book and pay online here or by filling in the form below and we’ll send you a link to pay your $60 online. Morning tea included. Places are strictly limited to just 10 spots and your place on the mat is not secured until you have paid.

Kick 2020’s Butt: RESET YOURSELF

Yoga-2-Go Workshop

Already know what you want? Book now online.

Looking to take control for 2021 … and kick 2020’s butt? The goal of this workshop series is to help you take yourself to where you want to be. Each week you’ll learn techniques to use in your home practice (guided by your take home workbook) to empower and inspire your reset for the new year!

Yoga-2-Go is true to our name … you’re going to move, you’re going to change, you’re going to feel powerful and in control. You’re going to learn to stretch out your strength and take yourself to where you want to be!

It’s easy to book and pay online – click here for all three classes for just $150! To book and pay one workshop at a time, click here.

Alternatively, you can fill in the form below and we’ll send you an invoice to pay online ($60 per workshop or $150 for all three). Places are limited and your spot is not secured until you have paid.

Calm the F@ck Down For Christmas: Nelson

Yoga-2-Go Workshop

Already know what you want? Book and pay online here.

Do you need a big dose of Calm-The-F@ck-Down Before Christmas?

That’s OK, we got you! Handily located in the Jaycee Room at Founder’s Park surrounded by peaceful gardens, we’ll treat you to an afternoon to work out your chill-down. We’ll teach you how to take the pre holiday stressed, rushed, excited racing around and convert that energy to grounded, calm, purposeful living.

If you’re an “active-relaxer” who struggles with slow, this workshop is for you. If you savour the chill but can’t get there right now, this workshop is also for you.

Yoga-2-Go puts the work in workshop, so what’ll we work in this one?

  • Embodied stress testing
  • Breathing/some basic pranayama
  • Yoga-2-Go techniques to calm stress energy and pull it to your belly where you can use it to your advantage
  • Short guided relaxations
  • Restorative yoga techniques
  • Yoga Nidra

You’ll even take home a workbook outlining the techniques and practices in detail to empower you to take a dose of “Calm-the-F@ck-Down” whenever you need to!

Book and pay online here or fill in the form below and we’ll send you a link to pay your $60 online. Places are limited and your spot is not secured until you have paid.

Calm the F@ck Down For Christmas: Raglan

Yoga-2-Go Workshop

Already know what you want? Book and pay online here.

Do you need a big dose of Calm-The-F@ck-Down Before Christmas?

That’s OK, we got you! At an amazing serene location in Greenslade Rd, Raglan, we’ll treat you to a morning immersed in working out your chill down. We’ll teach you how to take that stressed, rushed, excited racing around and convert that energy to grounded, calm, purposeful living.

If you’re an “active-relaxer” who struggles with slow, this workshop is for you. If you savour the chill but can’t get there right now, this workshop is also for you.

Yoga-2-Go puts the work in workshop, so what’ll we work in this one?

  • Embodied stress testing
  • Breathing/some basic pranayama
  • Yoga-2-Go techniques to calm stress energy and pull it to your belly where you can use it to your advantage
  • Short guided relaxations
  • Restorative yoga techniques
  • Yoga Nidra

We’ll give you a workbook outlining the techniques and practices in detail to empower you to take a dose of “Calm-the-F@ck-Down” whenever you need to!

Enjoy a cuppa and some snacks and soak up this view!

Book and pay online here.

Alternatively fill in the form below and we’ll send you a link to pay your $60 (including morning tea) online. Places are limited and your spot is not secured until you have paid.

In Defence of a Grotty Yoga Practice

You can and should make your yoga your own, in class and at home. Choose what feels great AND choose what feels grotty. “What? ” You may exclaim. “That’s crazy talk! I do yoga to feel better, not icky.” The answer is, yes, yoga will make you feel better, great even, but not always in the short term. Here’s the thing: there may be a reason for that ickiness. Finding and working the grotty every now and then might make you feel like gold.

“Grotty”?

I’m not sure how much this word is used outside of Commonwealth countries, so apologies to followers from farther afield if it’s a parochial term … you ought to be able to guess its meaning from context. In reference to a feeling or sensation, grotty means unpleasant or a bit unwell. I think of grotty as feeling bit ick without actually being sick.

Grotty is Different to Actual Pain

When I expound the benefits of feeling grotty in your yoga practice, I’m not saying do anything that produces actual pain. (Real pain as opposed to a little natural discomfort from working hard). If you have actual pain, STOP. Pay particular attention if pain is felt inside a joint. In yoga, we are strengthening and lengthening muscles and other connective tissue. Therefore, you should never feel discomfort in a joint itself. So, if you feel pain, especially inside a joint, stop immediately. Ease back to where you don’t feel pain. Check that you are undertaking the technique correctly. If you are not able to practice the technique correctly you may need to practice a variation or something different to build you up until you can work without pain. It might be that there are some techniques that are not good for your body. That’s OK. Work the body you have.

I think of grotty as feeling bit ick without actually being sick.

– Kate Hay, Founder – Yoga-2-Go

What Is Grotty Yoga?

Grotty yoga might give you a headache

When I say grotty, I mean you are not in pain but you’re definitely not enjoying yourself. Maybe you’re pushing yourself, but it doesn’t feel like you’re getting very far …. if anywhere at all. Maybe you feel jammed up as you try to move or twist or lengthen. Maybe you even get another more visceral response, such as nausea or an inexplicable headache.

Symptoms of grottiness may highlight an area that needs work. The human body is an incredible thing and it compensates quickly for injuries/near injuries. Then it keeps compensating. This ability to keep our bodies working even when hurt or injured used to prevent us from being eaten by lions, so it’s a good thing. Over time though, these chronic compensations cause weakness and imbalance within our bodies that we are so accustomed to we don’t even notice.

“I have a hunk of bone from the end of my femur floating around in my knee joint. This causes imbalance and weakness, physiologically and emotionally, between my left and right sides. I don’t trust my left leg. Over the 15 years since the injury, I have worked hard at consciously keeping the balance. Even so, I was astonished when a physio looked at me standing, with what I would have sworn was straight legs, and said – your left leg’s bent, I don’t think you’ve straightened it for years.”

– Kate Hay, Founder – Yoga-2-Go

In yoga, we do things in very particular ways in order to prevent the body from compensating and cheating, using the stronger muscles, taking the easy route. This is the body “cheating”, not the yoga student, so notice and correct, but don’t judge. As mentioned earlier, protecting the weak spots by using the strong spots helped us to survive on the savannah, so when the body “cheats” in a yoga technique it is protecting us in an evolutionary sense. It’s just not much fun to live long term in a body that’s been fixed by a home handy-man year after year on an ad-hoc basis and never had the foundations straightened out! So, the techniques that produce grotty feelings are often those where we are not letting the body compensate. This could expose an imbalance or weaknesses that the body has been protecting for decades!

Over time the muscles and tendons shorten, others atrophy. Sometimes your yoga practice might be a little like a sports massage, hunting out the knots and nooks, working them over, smoothing them out. Getting into those spots may be unpleasant and might even induce feelings of vulnerability.

The fascia tissue might be all knotted up, and it may be quite uncomfortable working it so the fibres are laying in an orderly fashion. Think combing out bird’s nest tangles in long hair … it can be unpleasant. With the fascia we can tease it out over time with movement and stretching and that’s part of the reason we move quite a bit in a Yoga-2-Go class – you can’t comb hair by keeping the comb still.

It might be that the meridians we are working with are jammed up. While blockages are cleared and/or new pathways built (perhaps we no longer have the organ associated with the meridian, e.g. a gall bladder?), our body starts to recognize and experience the meridian energy again. My Tai Chi teacher told me about a student of his who felt sick whenever she practised one part of the 8 Brocade. When they discussed it, it turned out that the student had had her spleen removed and the technique in question worked the spleen meridian. She kept practising the technique every day, as best she could. When she finally felt good practising the technique, she noticed she felt better than she had since her spleen had been removed. Working the technique had taught her body to build a new pathway for the spleen meridian, even although the student no longer had a spleen. (Obviously, we’re not talking about rebuilding the functionality of the organ itself, but the physiological, emotional and psychological functions of the meridian pathway.)

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of your organs, meridian energy can move too slowly or too fast (maybe too yin or too yang). This might be the result of the body not moving in a balanced way (as discussed above), or it could be caused by diet or stress, or be a natural tendency for you as an individual. Moving between seasons can often cause upset within the meridians as the emphasis moves from one element and set of meridians to another. For example, moving from winter to spring involves a move from the Water element and kidney and bladder meridians to the Wood element and gall bladder and liver meridians.

When working techniques along meridian pathways that are not balanced, it is not uncommon for it to feel unpleasant. It’s also not uncommon to experience some of the negative emotion associated with a meridian while working that pathway in a technique, for example in a spring class you might feel inexplicably frustrated or angry. That frustration or anger may indicate you are practising “grotty yoga”, you are working the meridian pathway as it needs to be worked to get through to patience and balance on the other side.

Embrace the Grotty

Sometimes there’s a good reason for feeling a bit bad. Those reasons might be based in your muscles and connective tissue or in your meridians. Your body may try all the tricks in the book to avoid the problem area, and that’s where yoga with our very specific techniques (and bossy, particular instructors!) can be particularly useful for getting to the nub of the issue. So while it may feel like you don’t get “as far” by following the instructions, but you are actually getting much, much more out of the technique by being obediant!

All of these grotty feelings are reasons not to avoid the cause of the discomfort, but to work with it (never causing pain) within your personal tolerance range. If something felt a bit ick in class, maybe do some more at home. After class, revisit that technique in your head as you drive home … this visualization can help your body with the realignment, readjustment, untangling and pathway building work that gets kick started with the movement in class.

The body is an incredible thing, and so is the mind. And so are you. Work with what you’ve got on any given day and get the most out of it. Warts and all. Embrace the grotty with the good and everything will get better … eventually!

Warrior Tui

Introducing … the Warrior Tui!

Warrior II/Virabhadasana II

Warrior II (Virabhadasana II) is a fundamental standing technique, found in many flows and most practices.

This technique

  • Teaches coordination of breath and movement as well as correct alignment
  • Improves endurance, mental and physical
  • Teaches relaxation of the shoulders and arms while engaging upper body strength
  • Stretches out the upper and lower body
  • Teaches reaching down through the pelvis and the bubbling wells of the feet whilst simultaneously reaching up and out through the upper body
  • Strengthens the muscles of the abdomen, back, buttocks and legs – supporting the spine
  • Opens and stretches the legs, pelvic girdle and buttocks

Strength Stretched Out

Strength stretched out originated as the name for the running-centred classes I teach in Hamilton under the umbrella of Namaste Yoga NZ. As much as “Balance, Challenge, Chill” was perfectly OK for Yoga-2-Go, strength stretched out seemed to resonate with the Warrior II, the Warrior Tui and Yoga-2-Go.

Yoga-2-Go’s Warrior Tui

Artist Nicole De Barber creates amazing work picturing yoga techniques morphed with the animals or objects for which they are named. Working from her home in the United States, Nicole had to learn about our enigmatic Tui and more than did it justice.

More examples of Nicole’s work can be found here.

In the next few days, we’ll be working with more talented people to turn Nicole’s epic Warrior Tui into print-ready logos.

Keep an eye on the Yoga-2-Go Facebook page for opportunities for updates, new merchandise and maybe even some giveaways …

Tui with strength stretched out and some warrior tui

Reaching Flow, Part II

The first part of this series introduced the science of flow, the flow cycle and struggle, and this series comprises my reflections on some of Steven Kotler’s and Jim Kwik’s writing on flow. This post will discuss the second stage in the flow cycle – refresh.

Stage 2: Refresh

It is tempting to overlook the importance of TAKING A BREATH. If we just keep striving and striving in the struggle stage of the cycle, the flow state we seek keeps pushing further over the horizon until we burn out. That moment of refreshment, giving yourself a break, may seem like you are doing nothing. Actually, it’s critically important.

What is the refreshment? It’s not task switching – not checking your emails or doing something different. You need to retain that focus you build through the struggle stage to bridge into the flow stage. It can be literally taking a few breaths with your eyes closed, or appreciating the view from the top of the hill. It can be getting up from your desk for a walk – around the room, not around the block.

Taking a Breath between yoga techniques

You’re looking to consolidate the struggle phase so your brain recognises your achievement of the 4% and moves forward with the confidence to achieve your goals in the flow state. This is where yoga can be particularly helpful. Recognising the flow of Prana through the body, taking the time to not only breathe but watch the breath, these moments deliberately practice refreshing oneself.

In my yoga classes, we take frequent savasana (mini breaks) so the body and brain can recognise the work, recover and harness the energy built up. These breaks are different to the guided meditation at the end. Even a fast vinyasa will have you take a moment in tadasana, mountain pose, to breathe and watch, and ask you for 5 breaths in Face Down Dog, a recovery position. How many times have you struggled to achieve a modified technique, rested, then achieved the next advancement?

In running, often I reach a flow state having come down off a hill. The Swampy Saddle run I described in the first post of the series is one example. After the struggle up the Pineapple Track, take a breath and a drink, maybe eat a Jetplane (A type of chewy lolly in New Zealand) and look out over the harbour, then let yourself go down from the summit to cross the saddle. By the time you’ve reached the undulating saddle you feel rested and strong. Races I enjoy most, e.g. the Karetai Challenge, the Pyramid Challenge and King of the Mountain as well as the 3 Peaks (featuring the Swampy Saddle), have courses where a climb is followed by a downhill recovery, followed by a striding out to the finish! Maybe the “second wind” is where flow resides?

Learning to recover on your feet, to settle the mind, settle the breath, particularly during an event or in the public space of a yoga class, is something that asks for confidence and comes with experience. It takes confidence to let go and let things rest for a few moments. The yoga concept of being “the Witness”, to observe without judgement is helpful here. If you beat yourself up for letting go of the challenge phase, then you will wear out and mastery will keep slipping back over the horizon.

“Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river”

– Lao Tzu

The first post discussed the longer training cycle of days and weeks and how this cycle mirrored the 90 minute cycle of individual flow. Those easy days after speed-work or adding distance, those consolidation weeks: they are refreshment. A yoga practice or other cross training can be lateralisation (see the struggle post for discussion of lateralisation) or it can be refreshment within the longer cycle. It can also be recovery, of course, and this will be discussed in the last post of this series. Are you using the alternate activity to avoid the target activity? Then it’s procrastination and you should look at whether you are actually passionate enough about your goal to keep with it or whether your challenge is greater than 4% and you have become fearful. Are you working at the 4% challenge level? Then it’s lateralisation and you need to make sure you spend some time refreshing so you don’t burn out. Are you consolidating your prior work, retaining your focus on the goal you wish to achieve? Then it’s refreshment.

Ok, we’ve taken a breath, it’s time to dive into flow itself … (coming soon)

Reaching Flow

From reading this blog, you will soon work out that I am a huge Jim Kwik fan, a “kwikist” if you like. Each new episode of the podcast, Kwik Brain, is a boost of knowledge and inspiration and I would encourage you to subscribe!

The recent episode (13 July, 2020) on Optimal Flow State with Steven Kotler caught my attention. I want to share it with you as well as my takes on the science of flow as a yogi and a runner. It would be interesting to share others’ experiences, too, so please comment on this post if you are so inclined.

Right, flow! Kotler over his career as a journalist and author has researched and curated a vast knowledge of the science of flow, aka being in the “zone”. For me, running in a flow-state is embodied by feeling of a stretch and strength in my quads while striding out, feeling little else but the breath. Things come easily, without thought. You feel detached from time and space and immersed in it, all at once.

I could often tap into flow on top of the Swampy Saddle, near Dunedin, NZ. Having recovered from the steep climb up Flagstaff on the Pineapple Track, it’s just me and the mountain. Each stride through the tussock grass times with the breath. The breath eating up the distance. Fly down one side of the gully, like a tiger. Spring up with other, a mountain goat on its toes. This feeling is why we run!

Most sports people know this feeling, as do dancers, writers, and musicians. Steve Kotler has analysed the flow experience and determined some ways to maximise our chances of achieving the flow state.

The Flow Cycle

Kotler says flow is really a 4 stage cycle. An individual flow cycle takes around 90 minutes, but that 90 minute cycle also operates within larger, longer cycles of days and weeks. The minimum 90 minute flow state includes time for struggle, refreshing and recovery in addition to the flow state experience itself. So, the four stages are:

  1. Struggle
  2. Refresh
  3. Flow
  4. Recover

The four stage process is evident when you think about the training rules of thumb. Over the days of a week, a program will generally like this: Easy, Speedwork, Easy or rest, Speedwork, Rest, Race/Clubrun on Saturday, Distance on Sunday, Rest. Training pattern over the weeks tends to look like this: build distance, consolidate, add speed/tempo, consolidate, taper, peak/race, recover. There’s the pattern: struggle, refresh (sometimes circling back through these), flow/peak, recover.

In yoga, we warm up usually with some sun salutes or similar. Then, we will push our comfort zone a little. This will be followed by some twists and reclining postures. Finally, there is savasana. Where is the flow? Keep reading, I have a (perhaps controversial) theory which I shall expound in the last post of this series. On the basis of the 90 minute rule, though, many modern yoga classes may be too short for students to experience a flow state during that session.

Let’s look at each stage in turn.

Struggle

Sorry, everyone, struggle is a requirement of flow. Let’s call it challenge, that sounds like less suffering! The quality of challenge is important. If it’s too hard, the mind and body do not relax and flow is never achieved. The mind becomes fearful and you are less likely to succeed.

If the challenge is too easy, or not a challenge at all, then it fails to fulfill the purpose of challenge within the cycle. The purpose is to focus the mind on the activity in which we wish to achieve flow. To achieve focus, the task must be difficult enough that the mind cannot wander, we must immerse ourselves and concentrate, pushing all other considerations to the side.

Indeed, Kotler has identified a sweet spot for challenge, that is 4% effort. Less than a 4% increase in difficulty and the struggle is insufficient to kick us up into flow. More than 4% and it saps our energy and our confidence.

Flow has its own name in running: the “runner’s high”. When you run, you can usually adjust the struggle with relative ease, by changing the pace, terrain or elevation. Thinking on so many rules of thumb we adhere to, I wonder how many actually tend to the 4% difficulty target. My old technical coach, Jim Baird at Hill City Harriers and Athletic Club, used to say you can’t expect to trim more than 10 seconds per kilometre off your pace in a race – that is, if you want to race at 4:20 mins/km, you need to train at 4:30 mins/km or faster. I wonder if that 10 secs/km approximately corresponds to a 4% difficulty threshold? Other rules of thumb, such as how much mileage to add per week or how much you need to train in a week to run an ultra in a day, how do they measure against the 4% struggle?

“If you’re not skiing on your head, you’re not skiing”

– My Dad, purveyor of helpful advice!

Where is yoga in the 4%? In yoga, as in running, the intensity of the challenge is easily adjusted by the practitioner. Knowing to aim for a 4% struggle may help shape your practice – always extend yourself, but don’t over-reach. The ways in which we can find challenge in yoga techniques are many and varied: balance, flex, strength, aerobic fitness, bravery: one more sun salute, try a slightly more advanced modification, pull your hip back a little more in Warrior II, 2 more breaths in Dancer. Every practice should help you extend your comfort zone in some way. Try to find the sweet spot for your own struggle for your body and mind, today.

Finally, of note is the reason for struggle: to focus our attention. Um … isn’t that what yoga is all about: practising embodied mindfulness. So, if we can achieve sufficient focus via practising embodied mindfulness in yoga (or tai chi), is the 4% challenge still required for flow? Or is the 4% challenge required over time to achieve the practice of embodied mindfulness, which is itself followed by flow? At this point, I’m not sure if the science of flow has asked these questions, let alone answered them, but it would be interesting research. If any readers are aware of research on point, please share in the comments!

Side-stepping: lateralisation

Sometimes, no matter how you adjust the steepness of the slope ahead will always be greater than 4%. This is where cross training, what Kotler calls “lateralisation”, can come in handy. This is where you can utilise strength and ability gained in an alternative activity to reduce the struggle in your target activity to attain that 4% sweet spot.

For example, tightness in your body makes running too painful: the struggle is more like 10% than 4%. You might learn some yoga to lengthen your tight muscles and experience less pain, bringing you into the zone and the ability to experience flow. Or you might lack the upper body strength to manage sun salutes in your yoga class. You might do some wall push-ups at intervals during the day or intermittent kneeling salutes with mini-cobras until the full sun salute is open to you.

In this context, lateralisation is cross training specifically aimed at lessening the struggle in the activity in which you wish to experience flow. So, you need to identify the particular aspect of your chosen activity that you find especially difficult and see if there is some other activity that can build strength in that area.

Yoga is a particularly good lateralisation tool to enable you to step up another activity when you may have hit a wall. Dare I venture that it may be the ultimate tool? Why is that?

Stamina, strength, flexibility, focus, breath and balance!

I mentioned above the many ways in which you can extend your 4% struggle within the yoga practice, challenging stamina, strength, flexibility, focus, breath and balance. Within a yoga session any of these (or combination of these) can be built upon to lift you up in any other activity (and not just physical activities). Further, the yoga practice is likely to be a complete flow cycle in itself, helping your body learn about and yearn for the flow state. But I get ahead of myself – more on that later.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the second stage in the cycle, Refresh. See: Reaching Flow, Part II