Yoga, Ayurveda and acro yoga in Budapest - classes, philosophy also in English

2011. július 28., csütörtök

Asana focus No. 8: What is the final position? (paschimottanasana)

Many times yoga students ask what is the final position of an asana? How far can you develop a particular posture? In the chaos of stereotypes on the snaky flexible yogi man it is no surprise if many of us fall into the thinking pattern that the more complicated a pose is the more its performer shall be praised. On the other end we find those who content themselves by doing only , as they say, ’a few easy poses’, emphasizing rather the importance of the internal balance and mental focus. Yes, the most important is the inner stillness and indeed the aim of the whole practice shall be to achieve this silence through the asanas leading us to meditation as a natural follow up to our exercises.

I think you shall not stop at the „easy asanas” in the sense that you should not get lazy and confined to your existing limits, but you should give yourself a chance so that your body can demonstrate its full ability through its wonderful breakthroughs and enhanced flexibility and make you experience states where you finally  feel the unhindered flux of energy through your channels. So doing asanas shall remain a continuous process where even if treating yourself with care and love, you shall constantly thrive to achieve better performance. This drive might not necessarily mean more difficult poses, because this opening up can happen in less spectacular ways.

Just to make it more understandable, here is an example: Paschimottanasana. At first sight you might only understand that you are supposed to bring your head to your leg while sitting in a forward bend. Then if you are lucky and have a good teacher, you will discover that first it is more about the opening of the hip and the pelvis. If your hips are too tight and the pelvis is tilting backwards due to tight hamstrings, then you will only be able to bend forward with a curved back which will just further increase the unwanted curvature. This cannot possibly be the point of the posture since asanas aim at increasing the energy flow and that would be highly impossible with a hunched back. Well, then let’s try it with a straight spine, even if at first you cannot tilt forward more than 5 cm maximum. The day will come when you will be able to rest even your chin on your shin with no stress in the back or in the thighs, and with a relaxed hip. You have arrived. Or maybe not? Only when you have arrived to this point you can really start to experience the energy flows set in motion. And continue savouring that moment by holding the pose even longer. Then, when you are able to hold the posture for example up to 3 minutes, without any troubles, you will forget more and more about the body and just let it charge.  Time will also seem less and less important.

And here of course, nothing stops, because if you keep on practicing for many years, you might have the blessing that the asana simply unfolds for you. Without words you will feel that A-ha moment, yes, now I have understood something about Paschimottanasana. And it is still not the end, year after year as you continue the practice with more wisdom and experience, surmounting the abilities of your ageing limbs, you will come to see more and more subtleties. This is what makes masters truly great. This continuous progress. The fact that they consider the asana a living thing, a constant creation of prana which continues to move and alter as long as it exists. Only the cadaver remains unchanged. The final position, the corpse pose, shavasana at the end of the class is a tremendous symbol, since the closing relaxation is a memento mori, a reminder of our mortality.
So use every breath like an opportunity for development. Seek endlessly for your boundaries. Accept the condition of the body as it is in the moment, and be grateful for the actual achievement, but never see it as the final position. How many counts, how many breaths? You measure often asana through this filter. Acharya Venkatesh (Mysore) would say, ’You know, that you are not going to die, so hold it one more breath you think you can survive’. This might seem a little drastic at some point, but sometimes you need this approach for the breakthrough. ’I can’t take it any longer’, you say, but then engage yourself for two more breaths and just watch what happens. Once you get used to it, raise the holding time by another two breaths. It will be like running and reaching at the turning point. It might not happen at first but you can be sure that transformation will occur.

Do not look for the outer form, just allow the asana to unravel. Be inspired by my paschimottanasana.

To finish, I must say, I met some yoga teacher in her fourties complaining about never getting to far in her asana practice. She was filled with bitterness and resignation. Do not allow yourself this attitude, you can always learn and grow. If the Belgian queen in her eigthies, suffering from a trembling neck was able to learn headstand (!) under Iyengar’s guidance, then we have no excuse. Come on! Let your body take you to your highest potential and use it as a tool of your experiment in this life.

Nincsenek megjegyzések:

Megjegyzés küldése