What Happens when Yoga Really Happens?
THIS moment, right here in this photo yoga actually happening. On the outside it's nothing fancy. No a handstand, crazy arm balance or even crazier arm balance into handstand that is so prevalent on Facebook and Instagram. Those poses are all great, valid yoga poses and yes, I can do them.
First, please know that to me and many other long time yoga practicioners the poses are just poses, something we do to take care of the physical body and give the mind something to concentrate on. The real experience of yoga lies in it's definition. According to the Yoga Sutras "The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga." In the translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda he explains "The extraordinary experience gained by controlling the...mind is itself called Yoga."
For me this means my mind is still, not empty, just not jumping around about how I'm hungry or my back aches or my tummy is pooching out or how I'm not in alignment in my pose or whatever new distraction enters my mind.
A still mind does not just happen. Like learning to still the body in the poses, learning to still the mind takes regular consistent practice. One of the things I love about yoga is that it is a two-for-one - a great workout for the body and a way to heal the mind, heart and soul all in one class.
Back to this picture. When I do photo shoots I often make adjustments to my posture, tilting the head, moving the hands etc. to find a great shot. We were doing some seated close ups and as I have done countless numbers of times in my yoga practice I placed my hands over my heart and bowed my chin so that my internal gaze resided in my heart center.
And then yoga happened. I dropped in. The music, people and activity in the room faded away. My mind went white blank. The white blankness filled the room. One big black bold word flashed onto the white screen of my mind, also filling the room.
In what lasted maybe 10 - 15 seconds (or longer, you'd have to ask the people present in the room as I had no experience of time) I did not have a conscious thought but was full of the feeling of gratitude so deep, profound and vast it is almost indescribable.
I knew and felt, rather than thought, how grateful I was for 17 years of yoga practice. Thousands of classes. Thousands of dollars spent on classes. All the times I was offended that handstand was taught in class. All the times I fell out of poses. All the times I was rock solid in poses. For the tears I silently cried in class hoping no one would notice. For the tears I cried in my car on the way home. For all the giggles and joy that bubbled up. For the years I spent with muscles that violently trembled in side plank while I stared at the back of the person next to me who held the pose with an ease and grace I thought I would never experience. For all the times I held side plank with ease and grace. For my mentors. Like John who played songs like "The Time Warp" and "Everbody was Kung Fu Fighting" in class and Jeanne who didn't play music so we could learn to deal with our own minds. For teacher training and my Hubby for encouraging me and supporting me to pursue my passion even as it meant me being gone from home a lot.
I felt gratitude for leaving LA and my teacher and having the self-discipline to develop and maintain my own practice. For creating Yoga Flirt. For having experiences I love - like getting my hair and make-up done, wearing cute outfits and having my picture taken.
I felt gratitude for the Universe trusting me with this Divine gift and ensuring that I would have the courage to face criticism with compassion and clarity as well as enjoy the support of my peers and mentors.
All that and more in just moments. In the stillness of mind and body. That is true yoga.
Practice with me. Learn to experience yoga. Join a group class, take private lessons, or pick my brain to help you develop and grow on your own journey.
If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, Pin and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy