Beyond Your Asana: Freedom in the FormPosted: Updated:
Whether you are a seasoned yogi(ini) or a new to this ancient practice, there is one aspect that I consistently find myself discussing with people on a daily basis. The topic is summed up in one word...asana. Asana, the Sanskrit word for posture, is the aspect of yoga that is represented in the form. As a practitioner and teacher, it is my continued love and devotion to the art of yoga that keeps the practice both interesting and insightful. Raised in an environment where meditation came first, I found my meditation in yoga at an early age, but I know that this is not the case for everyone and it may be difficult to think of feeling such intense discomfort and equating that with meditation. Meditation however, is not an escape from sensations in the body or thoughts that show up upon the surface of the mind, but the ability to stay focused long enough to allow the energy to subside and go beyond the minds limits or "suffering." This place is available within all of us, yet it takes practice to come to the realization that we are not the "posture," we are simply experiencing the moment within the pose. Asanas give us a place to move into, establish an awareness of the flow of breath and observe through the senses. When this is experienced regularly, one begins to establish a deeper state of awareness of the internal body and the external form becomes a shell that supports deeper awakening.
What is this concept of awakening?
When you water a tree that is thirsty, the roots, the cells, literally wake up and are replenished. This is the process our bodies go through as we increase the energy(prana) flowing through the body. As one continues to expand the inhalation, the brain, all of the organs and systems, are given the life force needed to support the proper functioning of the entire body/mind connection. The cells are awake, alive, alert and given the oxygen rich blood needed to support and sustain a higher charge or frequency. This is when the practitioner may start to feel tingling, heat, sensations in the body in areas where blood flow was blocked and is now circulating more easily. Pain may start to diminish in places where these blockages where occurring. This is when the form has had a chance to re-member...or as we say in yoga...unite. Yet this inner balance is not the full scope of the yoga. This is where the Ha in Hatha begins and it is half of the whole. Hatha yoga is the practice of physical postures that purify body and mind, preparing for a heightened state of being. This is where the form meets the formless.
What does Hatha mean?
Hatha: a combination of two Sanskrit words, "ha" and "tha." "Ha" means sun and "tha," moon. When these are joined together, the balance of both masculine and feminine come together to support and sustain an integrated form and alignment with the formless.
In the state of formless awareness, one is able to experience the wholeness of now. There is no need or desire to judge, there is no comparison, there's not even a need to fix or alter a feeling of discomfort in a pose. One is able to experience the moment and let go of any need to grip or hold tight to an ideal. This is where the ego or the form of the pose is left in the material world and the practitioner is able to let the posture take one deeper into a sense of calm and open awareness. Taking this quality with one off of the mat can show up in multiple ways.
-Allowing others to have an opinion and leaving out one's need to project an idea or ideal, listening intently without a need to interject.
-Putting one foot in front of the other in completion of the days tasks without anxiety or push-pull. Maximizing effort through the path of least resistance. Doing what one is physically capable of and asking for help where needed.
-Sitting quietly for a few minutes every day. Turning off the noise and tuning into Self. Taking breaks when needed even if it is just to get up and pour a glass of water. Checking in VS. checking out.
-Trusting the process even when it doesn't look "perfect" or how one thinks it "should look."
Get that showing up and giving ones best effort and service is done without resentment or guilt. The practice is no different. One doesn't play big just by showing up with a lousy attitude on the days it doesn't feel good. Going through the motions gets it done. Feeling what is there brings one into a deeper expression of now and provides an opportunity to release and unblock the flow of energy in the body such that a lighter, clearer you may be experienced. This takes more gusto than Nike's "Just do it" motto, one must also...feel it. In yoga, we do, then feel, then surrender to what is. The practitioner begins to experience a sense of gratitude of and for the body, and the mind will shift from a place of trying to a state of being. One will be more in awe of what is happening and less focused on trying to escape or get somewhere else. This is more than just the beginning of great shifts, it is a courageous leap of faith. Each person's journey is unique and the practice is equally unique and transformative. When one starts to experience deeper levels of freedom, the expression of the postures may even start to change. A rigid idea may fall away about how a posture is "supposed to look," or what one is "supposed to feel." This is when the journey really starts to unfold in a way that allows the practitioner to enjoy stepping onto the mat each day; with a beginner's mind and the heart of a child. When the raw and real expression of ones joy is exuded, it is apparent, a blissful presence will be felt. Bliss can be accompanied by smiles or tears, by joy or even the release of held sadness after many years. There's no telling what may lie dormant within, ready to release in the form of a laugh or a yawn. It is an amazing journey toward the infinite place we all share in common and that is the spirit. Each of us, an expression of the Divine, is given this beautiful form to express the radiant light within. Children beam and we smile at their exuberance. I say it's time to let a little more of that joy; the heart singing, foot tapping, praise worthy exuberance roll out of all of us. In that spirit of greatness, we all unite. In that great spirit of oneness, we all sing together. This is the place we all come from when we are free. This is the place for both you and me to just show up and be. That is the power in the form and the formless. When you and I are both there...we meet somewhere in the middle. This is the oneness that is possible through conscious awareness. This is the power of yoga beyond the asana. Beyond the minds binds to time and the egos trappings of where we should be right now, there is this moment. This is where we meet one breath at a time.
See you around the bend!