This afternoon I had another core yoga session, where we went through two poses, a niyama, and some Sanskrit. It was an information-intense session; but overall, a good one.
The first pose we did was Cow-Face Pose (Gomukhasana). The pose is pretty straight-forward, and while it can be a challenging pose for some people to do, it isn’t an exceptionally difficult pose to explain or to understand. The student who led us through the pose did share some good modification ideas to help make the pose more accessible to all students, and I appreciated that additional information.
The second pose we did was Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakatasana). Pigeon is one of those poses people usually either fully love or completely hate; but honestly, I don’t have a super-strong response to this pose. It is a great hip opener, and I appreciate that when done properly it is also a very good heart opener – but I’m fine to do it, I’m fine to stay in it for several minutes at a time, and I’m fine when it isn’t included in a class. Today I did learn something new about the pose, though: Because the pose is a double-whammy hip-and-heart opener, apparently it can trigger strong emotional responses in individuals who do it. In fact, our main teacher explained that she has had more than one student weep in this pose, because a bunch of emotional “stuff” came up as the student stayed in the pose. So we certainly shouldn’t shy away from the pose (or worse, be “scared off” from it), but to be aware that a powerful reaction may occur in students who hold this pose for a bit of time. Good to know.
After we practiced the two poses for a little bit, we moved on to the next topic: the niyama of svadhyaya, or “self-examination”. The students who led this session of the class asked us each to reflect on the following question: “How have you changed between May [when our yoga study program began] and today?” We then entered one full minute of silence to pause and reflect.
What a powerful question. What came up most strongly for me was that in the past six months, I have really begun to find more of my own personal voice within yoga; and I dare say I have also gotten a lot more clear on my own personal “voice” (perspective, beliefs, ‘convictions’, whatever term[s] you want to use) in my life. I could prattle on for pages and pages on these two topics, but basically I think I can summarize most of it by saying that I’m realizing more and more that there isn’t one single “right” way to do yoga; and there isn’t one single “right” way to do life. And the beautiful freedom that exists in that truth is, well, amazing.
As a total class we had quite good conversation around svadhyaya, but one of the discussion points that really stood out for me was this one: “Think of a computer. It’s a machine, a tool with so much potential. [But] you can’t use it if you don’t get to know it. Humans are similar. We need to study ourselves. We need to know our complexities, limitations, and potentials to best navigate life.” ~The Spirit of Yoga by Cat De Rham and Michele Gill
How many people never take the time or make the effort to get to know themselves? To really, honestly, deeply get to know themselves? And how much life is missed (or lost) because of this?
Yeah, a lot of pretty deep personal reflection was done in this brief 30 minute class section.
But soon that time ended, and it was on to the next topic: Sanskrit.
I expected this section of class to focus on learning various Sanskrit prefixes and suffixes (things like “adho” means ‘downward’ and “ardha” means ‘half’) so that we would be able to figure out key words and phrases used in yoga. Instead, the class was 99% focused on pronunciation – how to correctly orally say various Sanskrit sounds. Which is kind of important, I guess; but I would have thought meaning would come before diction. At any rate, the class was very “hands-on”: the teacher said a sound or word, and then we repeated it. And back-and-forth, back-and-forth we went, doing a lot of call-and-response/drill practice for the bulk of two hours. It was what I imagine speech therapy is like; and honestly, it was kind of exhausting. About halfway through the class session, I started to feel run-down, then overwhelmed. It was just all so different, and the nuances between one sound and another sound can be so subtle, and the letters use dashes and dots and symbols I’m just not familiar with… And I think the teacher could feel anxiety growing in me (and in many of my peers as well), because at this point in the class he made a comment: “It’s really not that hard if you just relax and let it come.” Ah, yes… When I relax and let things come to me (instead of chasing and pursuing and stalking them) usually I get better results, and I save myself from exhaustion. Excellent reminder.
And as I sit and look back on this class session, that is what a lot of today was – a reminder. A reminder of where I’ve been, a reminder of what I can do, a reminder to trust that I will be shown what I need, when I need it; a reminder that I’m in this program to learn about union, about true yoga.