Day two with Abhi continued our study of the gunas (energetic properties of Nature) within the “architecture” of asanas – and a lot of great standing asanas at that. She reminded us that yesterday we were bringing the tamasic (inert) property of the body up to the rajasic (active) property of the mind, but we also have to work in the other direction as well. The activity of the mind must be tempered to focus in on the stability of the body, and with that balance we reap the benefit of happiness and freedom through yoga.
For the first 20 minutes or so she chose to help us release the stiffness or soreness from yesterday’s jumpings. Only then were we able to truly “begin class”. Using familiar postures, we investigated movement and attention from the front to the back. In this way, the body finds more physical stability and balance and the mind is drawn inward to a more sensitive state. The “effortless effort” that is a product of asana comes when we are able to work physically, but be mentally attentive and steady. Instead of always throwing forward and outward, through asana we find ways to draw weight and attention backward and inward.
That does not mean there is NO effort of course! She reminded us that we talk a lot of “meditation”, but to sit quietly and contemplate the cosmic energy does not just happen! You have to FEEL the energy to actually meditate upon it. As BKS Iyengar often said, the practice of asana is “meditation in action”. And, when we are first working to this end, Iyengar also would say “there is no substitute to sweat”.
Knowing there are many levels of student out in the Zoomiverse during this gathering, Abhi continued to remind us of the “levels” we might go through as students. First we must just do! Build the pose, like a building is built from a physical foundation. Then, once the building is built, you may enter it and experience the effect that it may have, benefit from its purpose, explore it fully.
After a good sweat and so much attentive effort in asana, there is no experience to have except full relaxation. To lie down or sit still at the beginning of a class with no physical practice does not easily occur. The mind continues to wander and the body may be stiff or heavy. Bringing the mind to the body and the body to the mind allows for the absolute experience of “rest” and “relaxation”. This is the experience of the sattva guna – light and luminosity and fullness – happiness from the very core of the being.
Through this experience of happiness we are then set on the path toward ultimate freedom. Abhi mentioned that BKS Iyengar used to turn the words of The Declaration of Indepence around to fit a more yogic experience – “Life, Happiness, and the pursuit of Liberty”. Life is where we are given the opportunity of effort and action, internal happiness and contentment come as a result of that external practice, and then we are disposed toward the ultimate freedom and liberty of the soul.
I know that this sweat is a welcome adventure for me on these cold fall mornings…a testament to the transformation that occurs through the practice of yoga.