Yoga inspirational number 36, published in YOGI TIMES, March, 2016. Update 3/27/18
It’s likely when observing the stylish symmetry of a Harley-Davidson, or a yoga pose in perfect aligment, to believe motorcycling is about the eye-catching chrome machine rumbling down the road and that yoga is about what we see on Instagram as yogis strike a perfectly aligned asana. That’s not to criticize this, for each pose represents the probability that thousands of practice hours went into the building these asanas. Nobody shrinks into inflexibility in mind or body overnight, and it may take years of practice to strike a pose where we bend like palm trees in the wind.
A yogi on the mat or a Harley-Davidson on the highway both perform their function at a high degree – garnering attention – but the brilliance of yoga is its regression from form to function and ultimately to emotion.
Like many newcomers when I started yoga I thought it was about what I saw. I noticed people bending into forms that were – at first –perplexing. To a lesser degree, I thought it was also about what I heard yoga could do, and that was to heal my injured back. I believed if yoga could heal my injuries I would be happy and that would be all I could expect. But there was more.
As a dedicated student, my yoga evolution was gradual; I practiced to feel better, then to learn good alignment. I paid attention to my teachers as they led me to conscious breathing and correct placement of feet and hands.
But right away, I sensed there was something happening well beyond my effort on the mat, and this was confirmed as I discovered the philosophy undergirding asana was just one of the eight limbs of yoga’s full expression.
Yogis are on their way to connect, or yoke deeply to their full selves, but they are also on a journey to discover something much broader and deeper than themselves. And while this intra-connection takes time, a gradual knitting of mind, body, and spirit happens. Most yogis sense good changes happening with this knitting, and find themselves taking initiative to learn more. It was true with me as my growing awareness revealed how yoga works: the building of awareness beyond the outer forms of asana and a corresponding move to a deeper emotional base.
Yoga is a dynamic leader – both gentle and firm – that invites the yogi to an active partnership. Before long, the yogi can be caught up in a transforming spiral of learning where form begins reporting to emotion. In the words of B.K.S. Iyengar, yoga is “discovering evolution through a journey of involution.”
Preparing the yogi for a deep connection to self-was originally a long and arduous process of discipline for the mind, body and spirit, and it happened in predictable steps. The stages that have shaped me were predictable too: first a physical transformation as a result of disciplined attention to asana. The result was improved flexibility, strengthening of muscle, better balance, and heightened endurance.
The second practical step in any yogi’s journey is cerebral. The yogi enjoys an enhanced ability to concentrate, and a wider awareness of life’s physical and metaphysical relationships and spaces. The yogi starts asking questions and discovers that his/her mind and body answer life’s challenges in new ways, and then the yogi graduates to step three, or emotional growth.
Teachers frequently say at the start of a pose, “This might bring something up in you.” That something could be any person, place, or event from the yogi’s past that hurt, limited, rejected or doubted them. This happens, but it is only the start of yoga’s emotional rescue, and an apt illustration of how the form and function of yoga report to emotion.
If one is aware of their emotional body through meditation, journaling, or deep reflection, they will be put directly in touch with their emotional body through yoga. The yogis called this an aspect of the koshas, or sheaths of our existence. And in time, when yoga does its work, the yogi learns to truly love and accept themselves as they are. Nothing is accomplished but this, and yet this is everything.
By yoga’s work on me, and a corresponding increase in emotional awareness, I realized that for years I held tension from my professional and intellectual work in my shoulders. The emotional body of my practice taught me that this tension is aligned most closely, but not solely, with jealousy. Further energetic work here would have me attend to the throat chakra which works toward a therapeutic of speaking truthfully.
A second realization I came to is that I hold family and tribal tension in my hips. This is associated most closely, but not solely, with guilt and aligns with the spleen and heart chakra. Energetic work there addresses the therapeutic ability to feel, to be social and intimate. This is practically experienced in the practice of pranayama and the breath-hold (kumbaka). When one holds their breath, even for a short time, the spleen contracts and pumps millions of red blood cells into the blood stream. These are vitally important for transporting oxygen through the body.
Third, I hold self-esteem and the effort to establish and maintain positive self-worth in my lower back. This is associated most closely, but not solely, with sadness and the solar plexus chakra. Energetic therapy there would address the ability to achieve and take pride in my accomplishments. Yoga work will activate core poses through twists.
I came to these understandings through self-work, and out of necessity. It’s not easy to find a curriculum for emotional/spiritual and mental integration, yet a heightened mind/body/spirit awareness that happens through yoga raises emotional healing as an accessible and ongoing self-project for the yogi.
Coming to self love thorugh yoga teaches that emotions need not define us, and because the yogi is the one person in the world with the largest stake in what happens, they also occupy the best position to know the emotional body. They can use this self-knowledge to rewire their emotional body and release the negatives.
The yogi’s working ground is the yoga mat and self-reflection in private. When he/she practices and reflects, healing happens in remarkable stages. All it takes is the yogi’s courage to pick-up and shoulder yoga’s emotional body, and then do their work to transform the emotions that form and function ultimately salute.
Gregory Ormson teaches at MOTTO YOGA in Queen Creek, Arizona, and at Superstition Harley Davidson in Apache Junction, Arizona. His program for bikers is called, YOGA AND LEATHER: yoga for bikers
Louie Netz reference: Retrieved 3/12/16 from: www.signweb.com
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