Pain AND Pleasure


Day two I am trying to remain in that present state, ATHA, but I am also all too aware that these 6 days will pass by faster than I would like. To soak up as much of this teaching as I want is perfectly impossible…to catch the teaching that I can is what I have to be present with.

This morning was full of some approaches to twists and other various standing poses, focusing on the arm and armpit spaces. Lengthening arms and softening armpits to find lift and freedom for the chest. The afternoon was a practice of the somatic (or bodily) approach to Pranayama. We must first seek sensitivity and awareness of the movement of prana and energy through the body in action before we can sit strong and stable for Pranayama practice.

A lot of today’s theme focused on the play of pain and pleasure, fear and avoidance, positive and negative attitude, what is seen and not seen – how they are obstacles and distractions to our progress toward yoga citta vrtti nirodha.

First was a reminder that we are typically only aware and pay attention to that which is actually happening and doing. We do not spend time seeking out what is not done or what is not easily seen. This is delusion and it is not the whole truth of reality. The whole of the seen and the not seen must be searched for and studied. And the breath is the greatest helper in this endeavor. Where does the breath move? Where does it not move?

We also have to watch the mind as we strive in this endeavor. We may happily enter practice with things we want to do or even challenges we “think” we want to tackle, but in the actuality of experience we may suddenly face fear, hatred, loathing, or avoidance – all leading to easy distraction away from practice. Can we stay absolutely present, in the NOW, with whatever we face, and not be distracted or deterred? That is yoga?

The JOY in practice is not that of attachment to those things we love (raga) or aversion to those things we hate (dvesa). The JOY comes from pure experience in every pose that we encounter without impression, judgement, fear, or attachment. We must be curious in exploration and not just plod along point by point without facing the reality that is before us at each step.

For me personally at the moment, my knee is paining. I have an injury that stops me physically at times, but especially here, it is not something that stops my learning process or exploration of ways to do things differently. It is there only when it appears and thankfully I have tools to move through and around it when needed.

But the joys of this practice keep opening me up. We chanted the sutras with Geetaji on tape after morning class and was surprised at how easy that came and what a smile it brings to my face and heart. Her clarity and exuberance can be heard in every breath and the collective voices responding in turn fill my heart.

Abhijata’s keynote address was full of insight and example of not being fearful or making excuses for the way we practice. Our perceptions about what we can or can’t do, want or don’t want to do, distort the actual reality in front of us. Our stiffnesses and divisiveness are all in our overthinking minds.

She reminded us in a long Savasana today that even that takes some work. We must strive for stamina and longevity so that we may reach the goal of true surrender. Otherwise we continue to fidget, question, think.

We ended the long day with a performance of Indian dance dedicated to the journey of Patanjali and dedicated to BKS Iyengar. We all have to remember that the art of practice lies in finding the dance, the movement, the song anew with each day, each practice, each moment.

Keep up your exploration!!!

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.