Photo Credit to Susanne Bulington
I think Day 3 with Abhi left many of us feeling “put back together” or at least fully relaxed into this experience with her.
She started class with the reminder that the word ASANA means “seat” which suggests “comfort”. However, comfort is not a relaxation of effort. Comfort is freedom! So why do we sit up straight and open up our chest? It is not from mere discipline. To sit upright is to gain the understanding of the biochemistry of sitting, for clarity of purpose in the “seat”. “The armpits are the storehouses of energy”, so to sit straight and coil the armpits forward opens us up to our energy stores and puts us in the present moment. As always, in yoga there is an understanding to be gained in “alert passivity” – putting in effort enough to open ourselves to complete release into the NOW (effortless effort).
“Atha yoganusasanam” is the first Yoga Sutra and ATHA, NOW, is always the time for yoga. This “alert passivity” brings us to the present moment, which is the now.
Physically, we began class all strapped up, from the hips to the ankles. This idea came from a question about tense and bulging thighs in poses. She tied it in to the hip-work of the previous day as well, but added that along with the hips coming together we also need to learn to create space in the groins. These two seemingly opposing actions have to be united to have the desired effect of freedom and flow.
The other thing the strapping of the legs gives is the feeling that the limbs are part of us. Otherwise we feel the legs are outsiders, that it takes undo effort to keep them straight or keep them lifted. “We claim that this body is ours, but does the body behave the way you want it to? We claim that the mind is ours, but does it behave the way you want it to?” Usually not. We fight this duality of experience all the time – “The mind wants ice cream, so we eat more ice cream.” while maybe in the end we will feel guilt about eating that ice cream.
Erasing the duality of the legs doing something we don’t want, tying them together and keeping them with us, brings freedom, flow, and the “spiritual nature” of yoga to our practice. We think that the use of props and asana are merely physical endeavors, but “Iyengar Yoga is spiritual precisely because we use props – we escape gravity and the mind is free!”
She mentioned that the best definition of “Spiritual” for her came from BKS Iyengar…
Spirituality or Self Realization is “not being a slave to your body or your mind. When the body and the mind listen to YOU, then there is freedom.”
We cannot keep dividing ourselves within or outside of the practice of yoga. We cannot look at something as purely physical or purely spiritual. The “physical adjustments in yoga are a BIG STORY” and the eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) are all tied together though the human mind likes to separate each limb into its own box. The use of props is to bring freedom – freedom to breathe (Pranayama), freedom to sense (Pratyahara), freedom to focus (Dharana), etc…
The end of duality and the beginning of unity in our action means there is good intention, less distraction, and the beginning of being able to see things as they are in full view. This keen perception puts us in the present moment, “now or never”. “The NOW” puts us in the flow not just with our own Self, but connects us to the flow of the whole…other beings, Universal Energy, even the cosmos itself.
ASANA for further exploration of the flow
Two really interesting things that were new to me
1) Chatturanga Dandasana legs only with all the straps on
2) Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana prone on the floor