The human experience is just that: So human! We are creatures of patterns of thinking and behavior. Plato was clear in his proposition that human beings endeavor to do what we believe to be the best under the current circumstances, pointing out that all wrongdoing is due to ignorance and is therefore involuntary. I would like to accentuate that awareness is key, or rather lack of awareness pushes us further into making undesirable unconscious choices.
I have been a yoga teacher for 2 decades, I would like to believe I am sensitive and empathetic to my students’ needs and challenges. However, unawares, ignorance and lack of understanding continued to exist till even recently in the way that I perceived yoga itself.
The younger me as a teacher was craving too much, like my clients, a state of mind or a desirable state to body. As my practice matured, I understood how asana practice is a catalyst to uncover the philosophy of yoga; the mat, indeed, simply a place of becoming available.
Diving further into the practice over a period of some downturns in my life, whether physical or mental, I intuitively began unlearning everything I knew. Here in short are some key learnings from a recent fall, wherein I felt so divinely protected from my years of practice. The body remembers and protects unbenownst, and ignorance of that natural law is like sitting with your head under a rock!
Yoga is even more important in the midst of pain and hurt
Over the years, I have been conditioned in yoga studios, to hear again and again: right now I cannot practice yoga, I am injured or I am not flexible. In the past I would just agree and nod. When I was reeling from my own hurt, I could barely draw attention from my pain, to think of practicing yoga. Struggling with pain, short breathing and irritability, I passed up several moments that I could have offered myself reprieve and healing! Very quickly though, like a gift, an intuitive subconscious memory surfaced, and I swan dived into that moment, not in a pose but in the possibilities!
Cultivation of Prana is the essence of yoga
Prana or life force energy, is the number one goal of an authentic yoga practice. As Prana or Chi or life force energy opens up the nadis (energy channels), the subtle energy channels of the body light up, activating the healing mechanisms of the body. I needed this infusion of energy most as I was hurting. When I dived into my breath and then looked at creating space where there was constriction of energy due to injury, I was able to lean into healing. My teacher and humanitarian leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just doing some exercise, it is much more. It is to expand your awareness, sharpen your intellect and enhance your intuitive ability.” My intuitive ability kicked in bit by bit, as I started moving my body in unstructured ways to bring more prana wherever I could.
Yoga is not a set of exercises but a state of awareness that encourages us to be in harmony in the present moment
How many times have you heard that the present moment is not linear? One of the key messages of that moment is intelligence and acceptance. With gratitude, as I slowly accepted my injury, I began to realize how divinely the intelligence of my body had protected me as I fell. In that moment, 2 decades of muscle memory, a neurological intelligence kicked in to protect me. Even as my body rippled in pain, shortchanging my awareness, I closed my eyes in gratitude to the subconscious memory and wisdom that I had been supported by.
Yes, I tightened my body in the pushback endeavor – an instinctive reaction to pain, however as moments passed, soon after, I intuitively started to smile, ( a fake one will work!) and breathe, and voila! I began to ease into the pain like a yoga practice. Ofcourse, I credit that awareness and dawning of acceptance to a daily practice of the SKY Breathing, a breathwork practice.
Yoga is beyond the mat and yet you have to show up!
Yogic wisdom is paradoxical! While the goal of yoga is not asana practice, but then it is also the cause and the effect in some part.The biggest lesson I learnt then was no- one, simply no one can teach me to do what I can do when I listen to my body. As I heal, I flutter, walk on tippy toes, do a pigeon walk or simply sit or lie down and do a progressive relaxation, called Yog Nidra, which by the way, is the best kept secret from ancient yogic wisdom.
The neurology of yoga is only now being understood but the ancient seers had distilled parts of this wisdom in simple poses and practices. Having said this, the subconscious wisdom of yoga is a ray of light. The light that supported me, that shone upon me, call it skill retention from muscle memory or an unconscious knowing. Or a light of collective consciousness, that falls in many colors as it falls through a prism – catch it any way you can.
Surreal as it seems, as I fell, it felt like a being in the circle of time, with a knowing spreading its wings underneath me. If you haven’t experienced yoga with a Sri Sri Yoga practitioner you may want that experience for yourself. In gratitude I find myself humming: Catch a falling star, put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day…