Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Yoga and the Deep End

It's odd to be so close to something and be so unaware of it's existence. It's like living next to someone you see every day but never interact with until one day you meet on the sidewalk and an introduction is forced and, low and behold, this person is a friend. Maybe more than a friend. And they've been living right next door to you the entire time.

That's me and yoga, at the moment.

In all my spiritual explorations and dalliances, I've always known that yoga was there but I never took the obvious step of finding a teacher in a studio and committing to the practice. Then again, in my part of the world, it's not like there's a yoga studio on every corner even as main stream as yoga has become over the past few years. So I've waited and watched and then the introduction was there and I was in. And it was like finding an old friend.

The very first lesson was an eye-opener. Some of the poses require way more strength that I would have thought.  And the balance required forces muscles to fine-tune in a most interesting way.  It's challenging and almost instantly rewarding.

It also makes you breath.  Really breath. Teacher focuses on breathing and breath-work and that was the other revelation after the first lesson. I could breath again. My mind was still and my lungs were empty and then full and then empty again. Stress (for the moment) was gone and my mind was still which I honestly thought was impossible.  Normally I'm working on about three different things in my head at any given time and that's not counting whatever song is stuck there looping. So there was silence. The sort of silence that a strive for when I'm working on the wheel or a drawing.  That little bit of zen when the moment, the action and the outcome are fluid and rolling. You are one with the moment, truly present and secure in the action since you, the action and the moment are one.

So I'm all in. And then I discover that Teacher offers an in-depth studies program that is designed to train teachers or give a student a completely immersive experience. It started this month and it lasts ten months.  So I had to choose to jump now or wait ten or more months for the next class.

So I jumped.

So now I attend three or more classes a week, in addition to a home practice and a extended lecture series every month or so. I'm not even sure the word "immersive" even covers it. It's jumping into the deep end and realizing the deep end is the ocean.  This is a good thing.  I'm not sure you really now how to swim unless you can swim in the ocean.

And did I mention the reading list?  A full reading list of fascinating titles. I'm currently working on  The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga and it's taking me longer than it should due to the fact that I have to stop and absorb, think, dream, read some more, repeat. It's an amazing little book that opens up the philosophy in such a way that requires you to examine your reality on a most basic level and I'll be looking for more from Mr. Bachman. I'll report on the rest of the list as I get to it.

So here I am. Swimming in the ocean that I thought was the deep end. And I can't just tread water. I have to swim and dive and in doing so, a world reveals itself that I knew was there but could never appreciate from my vantage point. You can stand on the beach and see the surface of the water and intellectually understand that there is depth and dimension below the surface. But you have to swim out and dive down and then you realize the true depth and scope and then you can see how deep you want to go.

One last observation: Yoga makes you honest. I've written about my dietary lifestyle and strategic impurity and I've always stayed close to it but yoga makes you want to eat right.  And sleep right.  And breath right. And it's not effortless but I've never encountered less resistance to better living. It just happens. It makes you honest about how you are living and thinking.

You do yoga and you want to do better.