K.I.S.S. You’ve probably seen this acronym before. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. It’s so obvious when you think about it. Hands up, how many times have you worked on a project, decided it wasn’t ‘enough’, then layered on numerous extra flourishes that, in all honestly, probably didn’t need to be there. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve worked and reworked a piece of copy/a yoga flow/an outfit, only to scrap everything and revert to the original, and often simplest, incarnation.
The thing is, this acronym exists for a reason: simple is best. Overcomplicating is unnecessary, and it’s a mantra I’ve started applying to my yoga classes. I’ll admit, initially it wasn’t by choice. An old knee injury is playing up and as a result I can’t demonstrate (or practice, a challenge in itself), so I’m relying solely on what I say when I lead students through a practice. This means I have to go in to my classes with complete clarity: I need to know what I want to teach, and how to get my students there in the simplest possible way.
'Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify'
– Henry David Thoreau
Now, when I started teaching I was definitely swayed by the ‘more is more’ ethos that permeates certain pockets of the yoga scene. I thought that in order to teach good classes, I had to offer everything for everyone, all at once. You can guess how that went down. I felt muddled and completely unclear as to what I was trying to communicate.
Naturally, I began to feel burnt out, so I started to reassess what I was doing. I started seeking out simplicity and grounding because it was what I wanted to both do and teach. Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong practice and fancy pants poses, but all at once? Hell no! It doesn’t feel good in mind or body, on either side of the student/teacher fence. I don't learn that way, and I'm betting most of you don't either.
Enter Jason Crandell, aka the king of intelligently sequenced, confidently simple, alignment-focused vinyasa flow. I started training with Jason in October last year and honestly, it has revolutionised my teaching.
A lot of what Jason champions was instilled in me during my first training with Stretch and Frog Lotus Yoga (thank you Carl and Vidya), but I think I needed to hear it again and build confidence to teach what I believe in. Simple, sustainable practices that build towards peak poses in a methodical way. The result? Less striving, more spaciousness and ease when you practice. And, as I’ve been noticing in my students, more confidence and understanding when it comes to the peak poses we’re working towards.
'If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself' – Albert Einstein
This is the thing: how can you teach effectively when you don’t know what your objectives are? Yes, I get that you need to read the room and students’ energy and abilities, but you need to respond to these factors within a clear, defined framework.
Case in point: the past couple of weeks we’ve been exploring back of core and backbends, working towards backbends and binds with a strap. Cue lots of preparation opening up the shoulders, hips and quads, and strengthening the back body, glutes and hamstrings, and lots of layering poses as we build towards our peak postures.
I’ve seen students who previously struggled with postures such as wheel and dancer find new strength and depth in their backbends because the simple, logical nature of the sequence means they can understand where to engage and where to soften, and that it’s a process. As a teacher, it’s been fascinating to watch and incredibly rewarding.
So, to come back to my original point, simple is good. Simple is more than good, it’s bloody amazing, both on and off the mat. When we keep things simple we allow ourselves space to grow and learn at a pace that is sustainable, and we also create room in our minds and bodies to fully understand something. And isn’t that what this practice is about: patience, listening and letting ourselves be absorbed in the present, without worrying about needing to perfect the next big thing? Letting go of the need to have everything all at once and instead honing and finding a depth to our craft?
Simplicity is aparigraha (non-attachment) in action, people. Let's embrace it. I think we'd all be far happier for it.