Four weeks passed, forty new faces, four hundred ‘Fuck what is this?’ thoughts, four thousand million new breaths… and...
when your whole world is alien…when even the basic structure of your body, your physical being feels like it's not your own - what do you do?
You get on your mat.
Gruesome as this has seemed (and most days dragging myself kicking and screaming)… my mat has been the only home I have known this month.
Over the last few years my yoga mat has been more of a laboratory. A place where I have enjoyed experimenting… manipulating my nervous system. A place where the magic happens.
These past few weeks it has been a rubber ring, a support, a small structure that I have placed myself within to help keep afloat, to help protect those parts of myself that I think are truth, those parts of myself being called into question (both the real and the unreal).
Finding a studio on the beach close to where I have been based, I have been blessed with a generous community of Thai yogis to practice amoung.
These yogis practice, ‘flow’ - for the most part a rocket based vinyasa where, whether you are attending a level 1, 2 or 3 class, you are essentially practicing the same thing over and over - for me bringing back the nightmares of Bikram. The heat is intense (there is no air-conditioning) and we are lucky when the studio only reaches 30 degrees.
There is little Bhav (the feeling state) - there is only repetition. Lost in translation?
Same every class. I’m bored in my head. I’m struggling in my heart.
I can’t breathe.
And that is just the humidity.
As humidity increases, the density of the air increases. More dense air creates more resistance to airflow in the airways of our being resulting in an increased work when it comes to breathing - shortness of breath.
Practice is tough, but still I know it is my only release - as challenging as it is.
Where is the joy?
The joy is in the structure. The structure of the comfort that a regular asana practice brings.
The joy is in the structure. The structure from which freedom is born.
The joy is in the structure. The structure of the bones of my skeleton as they form a boundary, a wall, protecting my inner most self.
Yogis for me the pose of structure that has helped me through a month of instability is Utthita Trikonasana, the extended Triangle. A solid shape, where three sides connect forming a whole. The vital threading of the body, mind and spirit.
When we practice a-symmetrical poses, such as Utthita Trikonasana, we are challenging the body to balance and instabilities can surface or, if they haven't already surfaced, then these types of postures help us find sama (evenness) internally and externally.
To Practice: Yogis step your feet three to four feet apart (make sure your heels are aligned), your right foot faces forward towards the top of your mat, your left foot turns in about 45 degrees. Root your front shin forward and down into the floor which will help switch on your thigh muscles. Try to keep both your knees soft i.e. don’t lock them. Utthita means to extend, so now we are ready to extend into Trikonasana pose. Lengthen the sides of the body long, extend your arms out to a T position and draw up through the crown of your head towards the ceiling. You should feel an expansion outwards through your arms, legs and head. Inhale. Ground down through the outside edge of your back foot and then draw your left hip point away from your right big toe as you exhale and fold forward and over your front leg.
One of the common mistakes that I see as a teacher in this pose is students trying desperately to get down close to the floor by their front foot. This isn’t the purpose of the pose, we are trying to expand, you want to be finding length on the underside of the torso. So, if you need to, take the right had to a brick to help bring you up off the floor.
Establish the two triangles this shape produces. If you can, take the gaze up towards the top hand, the point of focus. The vanishing point.
The vanishing point, that the triangle is also constructed around.
What is it this pose helps to dissolve?
This posture is wonderfully static yet extremely active. Grounding down, looking up.
What is inside? That which sometimes is beyond our understanding, but it still is.
It just is.
As the Dalai Lama said, the highs are very high, the lows are very low, and the middle is very boring. But after time, it becomes much more profound.
In my various accommodation rooms over this last month, (actually now I come to think about it over most of my adult life when staying away), I have always managed to fail in getting the safebox to work. Sometimes I can’t figure it out and there are no instructions, sometimes I figure it out and then forget the code so lock all my belongings away and have to call on room service...
This same happened again this month when I arrived in Bangkok, Hua Hin and Koh Samui!
Then I realised….
Here is my lesson….within this safebox.
The structure of this safebox, which I am never able to secure, to lock, is not supposed to be locked! There is no need for a lock because the structure of my being my physical self is protection itself. Similarly, the structure of my mat and my yoga asana practice is protection itself. I just need to trust. I don’t need a safe box. I don’t need to lock my belongings, myself, anywhere for protection because this most sacred part of my being, the most fundamental part of me “my inner most self” is not unique to me, because I share this with all living beings.
Vimarsha is “will-consciousness” - this awareness touching itself - folding in on itself - and this attuning to the ground - the base structure of your being - this is the centre of yoga.
And so we return to the structure of the triangle which contains the Buddha’s middle way.
The three sided shape.
The power of three.
Aum (often pronounced in the west ‘Om’) - also three sounds.