I've had a bit of a life block lately. It's like writer's block only more broadly blocking. My mind is everywhere at once. I spin around and around chasing my tail and then sink into bed, exhausted.
The irony of this is that in the last several weeks I started doing Hatha yoga. I go to classes in which I try to breathe like the ocean while striving to get into one pose or another. It's great. I really like it. My mind turns to breathing, balance, alignment, the tightness in my right shoulder, the stretch in my hamstring. Everything else clears away.
The instructors say beautiful things. There is a pose called Tree pose in which you balance on one foot with your other foot pressed against the standing leg with your hands pressed together in front of your chest. Last week P said, "Don't feel bad about wobbling while you stand. This is Tree pose and trees sway in the wind."
Besides the poetry, the instructors keep you honest. They put everyone in a pose and talk to you while walking around the room inspecting everyone. Pushing here or lifting there so that you REALLY feel it. I sweat and shake trying to actualize the images they encourage me to visualize. Muscles wrapping around bone, drawing up thighs, pushing down the tailbone, opening up the ribcage, energy shooting out from my fingers and feet like a star.
When you buy a new yoga mat you have to break it in with much washing to get the factory finish off of it. Until that happens, it's pretty slippy. Added to that I break into a sweat with the slightest movement or when holding a difficult pose. Most noticeably, the hands and feet. So while I am trying to break in my newly purchased yoga mat I lift up into downward facing dog feeling my hands slide forward and my feet slide backward in a mild panic that I will end up belly flopping onto the floor.
I finally understand the body hugging yoga clothes too. It keeps you from flashing body parts at the class while doing inversions. And allows the instructor to see what you are actually doing.
My parents call this my souvenir from Beijing. CE is a total yoga nut. It is her workout of choice and she also finds it centering. And on her recommendataion I thought I'd try it too. It quiets my mind. Although afterwards the thoughts go Brownian. Maybe I'm not doing it right.
Beyond (or aside from) crazy poses, yoga is for many, a spiritual journey. I wonder to where? and to what?
There are other paths of yoga as well that take you on this journey by a different path and while they are classically practiced one way I like to think that I know people who are right now practicing them in their own way.
Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Devotion of the lover to the Divine as beloved. Which we practice in acts of devotion to our partners or our children or our friends or our family.
Jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom. Which my Dad practices with his books and study trying to see the world in a way that others don't.
Karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. My Guy practices this form of yoga several hours a day.
Raja yoga, the "royal" yoga. The yoga that reveals the king within each of us. Some of us have certainly found it in ourselves and have only to look to see it in others.
Mantra yoga, the yoga of sound. We tend to use mantras of negation: "oh shit, oh shit." But we could use positive ones too.
My saying all of this probably reflects how little I understand about yoga. But that's okay. I just got started.
Some instructors start the class by having you each choose an intention. You devote your yoga practice that day to this intention and at the end of the practice you seal that intention to take it with you for the rest of the day.
R at Yoga Yard would at the end of class share with us an intention to have words, thoughts, and acts that are clear and compassionate. I think I will take that as the intention I dedicate my practice to this and next week.