Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yoga is...being willing to be surprised

Yoga Sutra 1:3-4 "Then the seer dwells in his own true splendour. At other times, the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness." -Iyengar translation

If yoga is that space when the mind is quiet, then that is the point where we can see things as they are. At other times reality tends to be colored by both past experiences and future expectations. I come back to yoga asana practice again and again because it is the most effective way for me to shake off what I already think I know and be willing to be surprised.

A great post by Karen that I read just before this Yoga Sutra got me thinking about practice earlier this week. She wrote about staying with what is really happening rather than seeing what we have been conditioned to expect.

Often, I catch myself coloring a situation with my expectations of how it will go. It is a big leap to give myself the space to approach anything without those expectations.

Because of my body type, backbends have, in the past, come easily to me, but leg-behind-head poses have presented a good bit of difficulty. It has been an adventure to find that the structure and sequence of second series has turned that familiar body pattern on its head! It is not just the poses themselves, but the way in which they are sequenced and practiced that gives second series its intensity.

Earlier this week I went into practice feeling frustrated, not with practice specifically, it was just a general feeling. It's not often that I find much to be that irritated about that early in the morning, but I had not slept well the night before. I started practice and found that the intensity level of the frustration increased with each backbending pose to a point that was very difficult to stay with.

I was stunned to find that when I moved into the leg-behind-head sequence, the poses were comfortable, almost soothing. With each leg-behind-head pose, the frustration and irritation dissipated as if I had come through it and out the other side. I finished practice with a funny feeling of surprise that just when I thought I knew my body and movement patterns, I was wrong.

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