It’s a common scenario… you bump into, or receive a call from a good friend, only to have them bombard you with a high speed stream of words that leaves your head spinning. You haven’t been able to understand what they are trying to tell you, either because they are talking too fast for you to decipher the actual words or too fast for you to comprehend the message they are trying to get across.

And your usual response ‘ok slooowww down I didn’t understand a word you are saying’.

In an increasingly fast-paced world full of increasingly fast-paced yoga, where bodies are moved from pose to pose in an almost dizzying blur, I find it increasingly necessary to slow yoga practise down, to move through transitions mindfully and hold poses meaningfully. Why? For exactly the same reason we ask our friend to slow down as they share their exciting news. So that we can actually understand what is being said in our body as we practise yoga. Because amongst all the things our yoga practice can be for us, it is always an opportunity for us to practise the art of listening.

The art of listening to your body, or listening to your emotions, or listening to your breath.

And listening is an art, a sometimes much neglected skill, that many people think they possess but actually have never really mastered the art of.

Take for example, your friend, as mentioned above, when they finally slowed down for you to be able to listen to their story. How would you listen? As they spoke would you be formulating your response in your head? Would you be hanging on waiting for them to take a breath so that you could interject, so you could liken their story to one of your own? Or would be able to sit back and hear them speak, watch the light as it changed in their eyes, the creases on their face move as they shared their story, without judgement and without a story of your own.

When we practise yoga, we want to listen in this way. As our body moves we want to hear it speak, without judgement, without creating a story of how our body came to feel that way. Because that story is from the past and has already ceased to exist, all that matters is the present moment and how your body feels in that moment.

As your mind and emotions fluctuate we want to hear those thoughts and emotions, without judgement, without creating story of why we feel a certain way. Because that story is either from the past and has already ceased to exist or is based on fear or anticipation of some future event that may never come to be, and all that matters is the present moment and how you feel in that moment.

As you breathe we want want to be able to hear the breath, to feel it move in our bodies and understand the story that it has to tell us. Without judgement, without story, because these things matter little when faced with the truth of our experience in the present moment.

Practising yoga in this way is the starting point for developing your skill as a listener. And listening is an essential part of any intimate relationship. Want to become a better parent? Listen. Want to become a better child? Listen. Want to become a better friend? Listen. Want to become a better coworker? Listen. Want to become a better lover? Listen.

And start by listening to yourself