Friday, May 28, 2010

The Mind just doesn't "get" Yoga.

Yoga is in a realm beyond words.

For as crazy in love with yoga as I've been, there is a part of me that remains skeptical. Just this morning, I'm embarrassed to say, I had a moment of fear when I wondered, "How am I going to stand in front of those people and teach them yoga." I was in a moment of feeling lost and disconnected, and I was about a block away from the building where I teach my first class of the day. And thankfully, moments later the looks of warm greeting and expectation from the class caused the doubting me to vanish. I was a passionate teacher, and totally into it once I got started.

There is an aspect of yoga (probably the heart of it) that is beyond words. All we really have to offer one another to pass yoga on is technique. Our minds can grasp technique. But what happens when we practice is ultimately beyond ordinary communication. Poetry tries, but only when we see through the spaces that the ideas open up do we get a fantastic glimpse. So, it's not the words of the poetry or the angles of the arms and legs in a yoga pose, but it is where we go from those launch pads of language and form that is so fortifying and affirming.

So I really believe that yoga is beyond the grasp of the thinking mind. And I find it wonderful that I want to talk about it so much. Isn't it strange to want to speak the ineffable?

The transmission of techniques is important. In a recent posts I've talked about my inner conflict with the traditional teachings, and how I've embraced the marketplace of yoga (because that's what I know...). This is another angle: the importance of studying, using, preserving, living and teaching yoga technique. There is something very real and powerful in these techniques for practicing yoga.

It's important to honor the teachings we have because the mind doesn't get it. And when we think that we've "got it" you can be sure that we're in an inflated state, or stuck because yoga is a window into the unknown. If we think that we know the unknown I'm sure that we are really oversimplifying. Labels and definitions help put things into human hands, but there is something about yoga that is beyond what any one person can hold by himself or herself.

I've been extremely fortunate to have studied extensively with the best Ashtanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga teachers in town. And the situations where I have been so humbly blessed with beautiful experiences have happened when teachers were honoring these techniques for practice that came from India.

The mind can shape the container that yoga goes into, but that's all. The imperfect process of our humanity becomes blessed with yoga, and escapes the container of ordinary mind.

Linda-Sama recently commented on a post, "there is a saying in India: dharma teachings are like a bowl of rice; you pick out the dirt and leave the rest to nourish you."

There are flaws in the teachings, but even so, we might also be nourished by their wisdom.

*simul-posted at Elephant Journal*


Carrie said...

great post I believe yoga is what u make it to be

Anahita said...

For me, this post strikes right at the heart of a teaching I've been intuiting more and more from my yoga teacher and my own practice: think less, feel more.

You see, I'm so good at letting thinking mind take over. It's my habit. It's not good or bad - it just is. And I'm learning to bring it more into balance with the part of me that feels...the emotional of the many sheaths that yoga unravels, right?

I also find it really interesting that there is this deep longing to communicate that which can "only be whispered from heart to heart" Perhaps we hope to find resonance with other hearts by doing our best to communicate the truth of what we feel as a result of yoga practice with others. Because honestly, if we can even find the smallest point of connection and recognition in another...a kind of nodding "yes, I have felt that too" then we have shared with one another a small part of the magic that is yoga.

Namaste <3

[and sry this got so long!] :)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes there is so much that happens in a yoga class and other times, not so much. It varies, but the variable is me. How I'm feeling and doing. How sensitive I am to my body, breathe and mind.

Just this week I left a yoga class utterly convinced of the arcane nature of yoga. There were things going on in that class and afterwards, that I can't even begin to put into words. Because whatever was happening was on a energetic plane - a part of me for sure, but a part that doesn't respond to the alphabet so well.

It all felt good though, as it has every time I've had those experiences before. None of them are the same and they all teach me something, and change me on some minute (or larger) level.

We speak of what we can, and the rest? It's to be enjoyed and experienced for the wild ride that it is :)

YogaforCynics said...

I used to be really bothered whenever a yoga teacher said something in class that was a little too religious or a little too new-agey or just a little too not-in-agreement-with-Jay-ey...felt like I didn't belong, wanted to argue with the teacher (but didn't). It wasn't until I went on a yoga and writing retreat and seriously spouted off about it all, only to have everybody tell me how much they admired my honesty, that I realized I was feeling defensive for nothing. We're all just finding our own ways along the path, saying namaste when we meet...

Thanks for your kind and lovely recent comments, by the way. So you know, I'm gonna keep blogging, though, for the moment, I may stick to little weird impressionistic type posts...and the thing about those is they kinda just have to happen...though I think one may be on the way...

Bob Weisenberg said...

I love your thoughts here, Brooks. This is the same thinking that causes me to liberally sprinkle words like "unknowable", "unfathomable", and "ineffable" into anything I write about Yoga, because ultimately words are only a tool towards getting at things that can't be described, as in "the infinite, unfathomable wondrous life-force of the universe". This is pretty much what the Bhagavad Gita is all about.

Exactly as you say--beyond the mind.

Bob Weisenberg

Linda-Sama said...

one of the most important things I learned in my trainings at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram was that above all things, one must have sraddha:

sraddhaviryasmrtisamadhiprajnapurva-ka itaresam

"Through faith, which will give sufficient energy to achieve success against all odds, direction will be maintained. The realization of the goal of Yoga is a matter of time."

(Reflections on Yoga Sutra-s of Patanajali, TKV Desikachar)

for me, sraddha is beyond the mind