Creating Space

The room was very, very hot today. With almost 40 bodies and 45% humidity, we were cooking as we made our way through the 90-minute Bikram Yoga practice. I’ve been slacking with my attendance, so every class has felt like a marathon recently. As often happens, during Pranayama Breathing (which is the very first “posture”) I was asking myself why I came. Why do I do this? I would have loved to have just stayed in bed this morning. What compelled me to come here?

But with each deep breath, slowly but surely, my thoughts began to drop off. Some other will and excited power began to generate within my muscles, and I just did the practice along with the rest of the class.

One of the things my thinking brain loves about yoga IS the decluttering of the mind. The “I don’t wannas” fade away. The self-conscious thoughts cease to matter. Even the striving to do the posture perfectly stops being helpful. There’s just one thing to do and the great Teachers and Masters have always said it: be . here . now .

In this quieter space, I notice things. I notice how very Sagittarian the Standing Bow Pulling pose is. We become the archer pulling the bow, holding that expectant moment for as long as we possibly can. “If you fall, fall forward” says the instructor. Don’t fall out from being afraid, dive in, take yourself to the edge, and HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD.

I AM the bow and arrow in this posture; my left fingers reach forward and my arm becomes the arrow, while my right toes are shooting up behind me and my legs become the bow. The subtle power of this pose lies in creating the exact suspension that the body needs to be the human bow, and in that suspension we pull our limbs apart like taffy. I am taffy, I am muscle, and I am thinking of the qualities of Sagittarius: fun, bold, adventurous. Shooting for the Moon and stars, full of faith and light. Full of humor. Sometimes when I fall out, I laugh.

There simply is just not such a thing as failure, not when we are reaching for the very light within us. There is only practice. “If you fall out, get right back in. You still have time. You can even end in the set-up for the posture. Stay in the posture.”

As a recovering perfectionist/self-defeatist, I really need yoga. It has taken me years to slowly gain perspective about who that rigid voice demanding perfection really is. The voice that is dangerous when taken seriously. That voice has gotten quieter over time, less demanding. When the voice does cry out to me, I can usually hold space for it and give it some love, like a “you’re ok, kid”. Or a “what do you need, beloved self?”

When the voice is quiet, or asleep, or absent — my mind thinks in a different way, and I see possibilities where before there were none. When I fall out of the posture, I might chuckle softly as I get right back in. There is a curiosity about mistakes: “Oh, that was a little too far forward, let’s see if I can lean back into my heel more this time….”. With a relaxed face, I go for it again. There is nothing to lose! There is no need for pride; pride is totally boring now. What’s interesting is THIS! What is happening RIGHT NOW.

There is a secret that’s not a secret, but we keep calling it a secret because it’s so obvious, we have to create a veil to even see it.

The secret is that we are the ones dreaming the dream of our existence. There is no separation between us and the Source of that dream. So go for it. You are perfectly held, even when fall out, fall down, or appear to be screwing up. Try again. Follow your strength. Do the thing that makes you say YESinside.

These are the thoughts that appear when the “noise thoughts” are abandoned. They are still thoughts, it is still thinking….but there is a different quality, a different flavor….it doesn’t take me to the same place of unnecessary suffering.

I keep following the instructor’s voice.

Eventually, even the inspired thoughts drop off. By the time we finish the Spine Strengthening series on the floor, my thoughts are like wooden blocks sitting a few feet away from me. I have retired them completely. Less is more in these moments of heavy breathing as we recover for 20 seconds in Savasana between postures.

I begin to think of class being almost over when we catch our breath in Fixed Firm pose, but we still have Camel to do. And Camel is the ultimate re-calibrator. In between the two sets of the deepest back-bend of the class, we are just existing, maybe floating, maybe feeling nauseous. Emotions can swell — anger, sadness, gratitude, love. I have shed tears during the Savasana more than once, and I have known that I am releasing old wounds, stagnant energy and fear. There is a presence all around me during those times, a presence that is rejoicing in my release and celebrating my freedom.

A spaciousness occurs.

I carry some of this open space with me when I leave class. Buffering the noise and stress of the outside world feels a tiny bit easier because I am aware of the strength that I just tapped into, the energy I played with, and the gratitude for a practice that can fill me with life. There is a lightness and slight euphoria after getting all that sweat out.

I return home to my teenage children and my messy apartment. I don’t have more money in my bank account. Nothing has been solved as far as my “problems” go. But my mind and my body are connected again. My worries aren’t running me. There is a little more space.

*

The Yoga Teachers are like Cats

 

Cats and yoga teachers are very similar.  They are like deities.  We bow very low to these advanced creatures.  We bow low enough to scoop kitty litter, clean up cat puke and deal with an eternal sheath of cat hair.  We bow low enough to give up our comfort-zone for 90 minutes in order to complete their class.  We bow low, and these deities grace our lives and keep us humble.

My girl cat, Tova, is my daughter.  She has the entire household wrapped around her pinky claw.  She is the Natalie Portman of cats, perfect in every way.  This morning she was cuddled up next to my shoulder when I awoke.  I got up and put my feet in my slippers to find UGHH!  Little perfect Tova had left me a nice wet hairball in the right slipper, ready and waiting for me like a dead bird.  It was so very unpleasant.

This is akin to when you are in one of the more strenuous postures from the Ghosh lineage, such as Bow pose, and you’re doing great, following the yoga teacher’s voice, following her cadence, and you’re giving it all you got, you’re holding out until the end: “Lift up, Lift up, Lift UP!”  But then she keeps going: “LIFT and surrender into the posture.  Find stillness.  Hold, Hold, Hold.  NOW release.”  That felt like eternity.  Half the class had dropped at that earlier point when we all thought we were done.  But the yoga teacher is sneaky and surprising, offering gifts that in the moment make stepping onto a wet hairball seem like a pleasant sensation in comparison.

These avatars, cats and yoga teachers, they can both peer into your very soul with their transcendent gaze.  By watching how they live, by following their teachings, we can learn to put ourselves in the role of observer more and more.  Learn to respond with a sense of knowing our own avatar nature, our own regal state of being.  When I tap into that, I am forgetting about “me” and “mine.”  It feels good.  The lid comes off the brain.  Gardens begin to grow again.  The doors of the heart open.  A smiling sun, a radiant jewel and a pool of clear water are revealed.

I bow low.

Namaste!