The body is a wondrous thing, and a great reminder of both limits and possibilities. I have been practicing yoga with some regularity for a while now and am amazed at my capacity to do things with my body that I thought I would never be able to, but I am also reminded, with pretty much the same consistency, that many things still remain out of reach. Some things come easy, such as Wheel pose, which for some people is quite challenging, but has never been too tough for me, and other stuff is just a continual struggle. Inversions--handstands, headstands are tough, I try too hard and then it is even more difficult--there is a lesson about life there I think! When I was in Canada earlier in the week one of the talks I gave was about not trying too hard when it comes to religion--learning to be and be present, reclaiming the world an inch at a time as Joan Chittister says it.
On the topic of yoga, sort of, is this album I came across. Turn On!! Music for the hip at heart was released by the Christian Yoga Church(?) in 1967, it's essentially a single track lasting almost an hour with all kinds of music, coughing, talking etc. I think you can probably gather from the cover art that this is not not typical 'christian church' and hallucinogenics might have played a role. And on the subject of hallucinogens, a new copy of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross has been released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of it's publication. The book seeks a connection between mushrooms and the early Christian communities...well, it's a theory.
Today is the third anniversary of my yoga practice. I have to say that I am as committed and excited by the prospect of doing yoga as I was fifteen minutes into my first class. This is probably not a big deal to anyone but me, but it is pretty much the first thing in my life that I have been as consistently focused and intentional on. I also feel like a complete beginner most of the time and sometimes I feel as though I will never be able to master some of it, but nevertheless, I am always excited to get up and go to class. I have also come to appreciate my own physicality in ways that were lost on me for most of my life. Having been one of those people whose body-perception has presented more challenges than anything else, it has come as a surprise to find strengths and abilities that I was completely ignorant of. I have learned to breath, and pay attention to my breath--anyway, enough of the cheer-leading, I am grateful for the gift that yoga has been to my life.
I am at a transition point in my yoga practice. I have spent a couple of years building core strength and a sense of my own physicality, now it's time to pick up the pace and stretch into some new challenges. Inversions--a polite word for lots of things upside down--headstands, handstands, forearmstands, are what I am moving towards. I have never been much of an 'upside-down' person, but there seem to be some benefits for getting inverted. I don't have much in the way of fear about inversions, but finding the body-mechanics to make it happen is not easy. Fortunately I spoke to a yoga instructor yesterday who has been teaching for 25 years and only nailed inversions about three years ago--her kind and supportive words of encouragement put my ungraceful attempts gentler light.
I have a new yoga instructor and a new schedule--class now begins at 6:30 a.m.--I know! Her favourite pose is mayurasana--dolphin pose--it's a 'shoulder opener'--strengthens the upper body and shoulders in particular for inversion poses. It's one of those poses that really takes it out of you and yet is exhilarating at the same time. Yoga is not for the faint of heart, it can be a real arse-kicker!
I go to yoga most mornings at 7. I find it to be a great way to start the day, it is a wake-up call and a gentle reminder about the need to keep focused during the day. Santosha, is the word used in yoga to represent the desire for contentment and it is an integral part of the practice. It means to be present where you are and accept the moment for what it is--thank can be a challenging prospect for any number of reasons in my life--anything from emotional imbalance to physical issues over a tough pose. I am attempting to live with a little more santosha in my life. I am a restless soul and easily disappointed by where I am at in life and I can quickly get down on myself. Santosha is both passive and active--it is about serenity but not complacency, acknowledgment not denial--it is a posture and a call to action.
"Lose the breath you have diligently used in your practice today..." this is what I love about Yoga, a few simple words that sum up what it is all about for me--focus, breath, presence, then release. This weekend marks the first year of yoga practice for me and I look forward to another one. I think I have said here before that I could get positively evangelistic about yoga, it has changed my life, or perhaps I should say, I have used it to change my life. I set out a year ago to change my relationship with my own physical body and to face some internal things that I felt had been haunting me for way too long.