Thursday, July 11, 2013

For the Love of Poses

During an Upanishads style talk (a teacher sits among his students, disseminating wisdom in a Q & A format) with master teacher Mark Whitwell, he spoke about the practice of hatha yoga like this:

"Yoga asana is a catalyst that allows you to realize all of your meditative and intimate potential."

In his commentary, he described the physical practice like many Hatha yogis a moving meditation. What struck me as noteworthy was his interpretation of how we as practitioners relate to the practice. He explained that we don't need to go out of our way to spiritualize yoga. We don't need to try to meditate. He explained that this practice allows us to experience reality in the most direct way possible, in our bodies and from our breath. He described yoga as the relationship of intimacy with the self...of being intimately related to ordinary things. For me, this was remarkable.  

Given the amount of time that most of us spend unconsciously in our bodies, breathing and moving and coordinating efforts without having to think or exert any extra effort is illuminating. Like when we are asked to exhale completely, or breath fully into the bottom of  our lungs. ...and as a student who will often tolerate rather than embrace the overtly spiritual poetry that many "hippy yoga teachers," dish out in class, I was relieved and encouraged in Mark's note that our intelligent, masterfully evolved bodies are awesome in and of themselves, without all of the baroque indulgences.

Sometimes, someone will say aloud something that is only known in a feeling, and once articulated makes everything more sensible. This is the influence of a great who illuminates or clarifies a truth that was already known, or understood, or forgotten.

Our yoga poses invite the same understanding. From our inner teacher to conscious awareness, each pose, each moment of awareness within them, provides us with a direct and undeniable experience of reality. Pain, discomfort, sweat, heat, tension, urgency to adjust, relief, surrender, peace, gripping, slipping, distraction,  and exertion...any one of these and more arise on the mat, in our exquisitely evolved body-mind. The practice sets up the environment for deep meditation, self-realization and loving kindness. We don't have to look for the magical and explainable to feel something amazing happening. For most of us, we will never reach enlightenment sitting on a quiet mountain top far removed from our ordinary life.

What Mark Whitwell, a master teacher who walked his own wisdom path with the father's of yoga themselves, offers us an idea that by marrying our breath and our body movement, by maintaining mindful awareness about this union, we organize ourselves into fantastic potential.

In joy,