One of the curious side effects existing bi-continentally is witnessing the unfolding of nature simultaneously in two climates. The gift of noticing how it is not bound, as we so often are, by calendar time. How Spring here emerges at a different time to Spring there and realising the principles with which nature organises itself are fully removed from those with which we might like to try and organise it; nature’s seasons are moved by something deeper than our external imposition of squares on the calendar.
Our Yoga practice also asks us to examine the principles according to which we organise ourselves. Classical practice of Yoga is not limited to the Asana (posture) practice we are so familiar with, it is in fact an eight-fold path (Ashtanga). The Sutras lay out this path as a road map, the steps are the same for all but the timing or journey for us each will differ and unfold according to our commitment to: Tapas (practice), Svadhyaha (self-study) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender) - we each move along the path according to something deeper than our own illusion of control.
The Eight limbs of classical Yoga are:
Yama - Universal Vows
Niyama - Ethical Observances
Asana - Posture (to abide)
Pranayama - Expansion of vital energy through regulation of breath
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - Bliss
The Yamas and Niyamas are further broken down into five principles a piece, I will share a very simplified description of each below although each could warrant a dissertation in itself:
Ahimsa - Non-Violence
Satya - Truthfulness
Asteya - Non-covetousness
Brahmacharya - Cultivation of moderation
Aparigraha - Non-greed
Saucha - Purity, cleanliness
Santosha - Contentment
Tapas - Focused practice
Svadhyaya - Self Study
Isvara Pranidhana - Surrender
Notice that there is a constant sense of deepening within the map laid out by the eight-fold path and also that it is not entirely linear in the way we might like to control and classify things. We do not have to fully master and ‘sign off’ Ahimsa before we progress to Satya, nor do we have to live trapped in a pursuit of ‘perfection’ or ‘become certified’ in the Yamas before we progress to the Niyamas, Asana and so on. We only need a willingness to try, to be aware. Although our practice will naturally evolve according to our practice of the limb that precedes, each limb also exists within the other, they intersect and develop within and alongside each other for as long as we continue to practice. Some of the later limbs cannot even be manifested wilfully, they will emerge only as the time is right as the principles that went before have become ripe within the practitioner - just as we cannot will the tree to blossom or fruit according to our schedule but only allow it to do so when the conditions it requires are all present - not in our time, in nature’s time. (Isvara Pranidhana)
So how do we cultivate the ripening within our Asana practice. You will notice the sequences I am giving you these days do not necessarily contain as many poses as we might do in a class, that is because I want you to go deeper, to feel more as opposed to doing more, and for that to happen we require the spaciousness of time, a surrender to nature’s time.
Prashant Iyengar speaks of organisation he says “To be organised is to have everything in its place at one and the same time. To be organised means that all is required is available when you need it. You have all your parts. When you are in the Asana you should be like an organised house. Everything should be in its place at one and the same time.
Do not do at the cost of some other part.
What is the point of something being in its place when it is not wanted and not being there when it is wanted? The ankle is there, but not in its place when it is wanted. When the teacher shouts “ankle” you put it in place and then the shoulder is not there in its place”
Try to practice this week with that in mind, can you work within your awareness to organise your asana. This takes us away from the habit of always trying to do more or learn more, instead Prashant says “Learn to co-relate, get organised”
Notice how observance of all of the Yamas and Niyamas are interwoven with practicing this way.
Galway Kinnell - 1927-2014
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
In this time of uncertainty I have no wish to add to the noise in this world. I leave these writings for those I have shared Yoga with, so our community may continue and flourish - as ever take what you need and leave the rest...