Saturday, October 8, 2016

YOGA is about internal transformation

During this trip to India, I have practiced my asana here at KPJAYI in Mysore India 7 times now. Each time has been a very different experience. How is this so? I am practicing the exact same postures in the exact same order with the exact same body in the exact same shala. That is ashtanga yoga.

People always ask me when I come to India  - So, are you going to learn something new? Are you taking a course? Are you getting a higher level of training? Some certificate? And it's always met with a slightly dumbfounded look when my response is  - No. I'm just going to practice. Same practice. With my teacher.

What happens though, is that you DO learn. You learn through practice and through experience. Not by being told something new, or trying something new. By doing. And doing. And doing. Doing when you don't want to do. Doing when it hurts. Doing when you are tired. Doing when the sun doesn't come up for 2 more hours. Doing when there is no space. Doing when other people's sweat is dripping on you. Doing when your teacher yells at you for being late, being too early, having the wrong towel, forgetting your ID card.

In our conference today, which usually happens every Saturday, Sharath talked about how YOGA isn't about the postures. Or how many you can do. Or how well you can do them. Or if you have a piece of paper that says you're authorized. Or if you can do a handstand. Or how popular you are by posting yoga pictures on Instagram.

He reminded us that it is about INNER TRANSFORMATION. And that it is experiential. That you can only know yoga, and have yoga inside of you, when you experience it for yourself. You can't read about it and understand it. Or take a 200 hour course and understand it. But by daily practice and devotion, and then one day, eventually, you will understand yoga.

The asana is just a tool to heal the body. The breath is equally important. The yamas and niyamas (10 practices to live in harmony with yourself and others in the world) are equally as important. Asana alone is just the circus.

So when I come to do the same practice every day. Year after year. I am learning. I am learning inside of my own body. I am learning to control my breathing and therefore my mind and my nervous system. I am healing injuries and imbalances in my body in a conscientious and methodical way. And I don't need to learn any new postures or techniques for this healing and learning. The less you do, the more you have to extrapolate from each posture, each practice, each breath, each visit to Mysore.

Maybe I will be 'given' some new postures to do this year beyond what I was doing last time. Maybe not. Maybe he will have me do LESS!? I am older after all and I have backed off my practice somewhat to avoid injury. Time will tell. I am not attached to doing all of 'my' postures and certainly not counting on getting more. If Sharath thinks I am ready, then he will give me more. I trust his judgment.

Each day my body feels different. Some days I have more energy. Some days my mind is more still while others it's more monkey like. Jump! Jump! Jump! Some days I sweat a lot, some days I sweat a little (today). Some days I feel calm and happy afterwards, some days exhilarated, some days sore and cranky.

I strive for more equanimity. Eventually. I certainly have more than I used to have. Less extremes. Less mood swings. Less doubt. Less worry. Less imbalance. Less weakness. Less insecurity. Less feeling of lack. Less reactions. More... yoga inside of me I suppose.

But I still have a long way to go. A lot of transformation is still yet to come.

As it is said in the yoga world... 'Practice. All is coming.' (~Sri K. Pattabhi Jois)

That's me in my hammock! On the roof!
"And on the 7th day, God rested. Oh wait that's not God, it's me.
But, same thing. Sort of. In a yogic sense. Not an egotistical sense."

Sharath leading the first conference of the season. The shala is packed. All eyes and ears are open. We soak up his knowledge and advice. His cute little son works hard for attention, as usual! (Photo credit - Xavier)

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