This month marks 21 years of me beginning my rebirthing journey through yoga. I say rebirthing because yoga has brought me back to this body and it has and continues to give me back life, over and over again. Prior to 21 years ago, this "I" was very disconnected and ungrounded because of my childhood traumas. They rendered me defenseless and hopeless, where I was simply not in my body and called upon death often.
When I stumbled into yoga class for the first time it was per a suggestion of my dear friend who encouraged me to take it because I had "anger issues." I meandered into class with a boyish curiosity as if I was five years old and starting school for the first time. I was nervous but also curious. After taking the class the instructor asked us a series of follow up questions, one of which was to guess her age. We all thought she was in her fifties but my jaw dropped when she said she was 87!! She had this appearance that emanated a glow. Being around her I felt her warmth and something that I had never even known but could only fantasize from the deepest part of my being and that was this feeling of peace. It was foreign for me because all I knew was escapism and violence in my earlier years. There was something a or her and this yoga thing that drew me closer to its bosom over time.
You see, I started yoga when it wasn't even popular, let alone anything related to a yoga for men's movement that is more modern. Doing yoga slowly began helping me to integrate into this body. Massage has also been a strong component in my life that was another means for me to develop body consciousness. Yoga, in a sense, is from the inside out but massage works is from the outside in. Because of both yoga and massage, along with other techniques, I have developed a keen sense of even what even my cells are doing. Yoga is amazing for bringing it all together and support this vehicle of the body as we remember who we really are. My yoga adventure has brought me to great depths. I wasn't really doing any kind of "fancy yoga," at least not like what's being so publicized today with all the twists and binds and inversions that seem to be the new images of yoga especially in the men's practices. For me it's always been about coming back to basics. I can do some of the fun stuff but basics have been crucial for my practice and provided me with great nourishment.
I've met many guru's, master's, mystics, shamans, sages and saints. I've traveled to India and meditated near the Ganges, in the Ganges, in caves dating back to at least 8,000 years where Vasistha set up shop. I've visited temples and partaken in and performed countless sacred rituals. I've been exposed to and have been practicing Ayurveda (the sister medical side of yoga) for over a decade and been initiated in other Tantric traditions (traditional tantra and the other sister to Yoga and Ayurveda). So much greatness and abundance! I have infinite gratitude to myself and that first day when I stepped into yoga class not knowing what I was doing there but by no coincidence because I was answering a deeper calling.
21 years later and I weave in and out of timelessness with my yoga practice as my companion. I may deviate from it sometimes but it never leaves me. I can always return to my mat and be in my meditation room sitting at my altar. The divine looking at me and my looking at the divine and in between disappearing into the oneness. I have learned that the body does have its own consciousness and intelligence. The body has its own karma. It holds memory and as we use yoga we can unwind the stories by transmuting and releasing but that doesn't always mean that the body will be perfect or disease ridden. Rather, we gain perspective and understand how even disease is part of a bigger unfolding sometimes that even the mind can't wrap around, the body may not change but the heart understands. Whether we become free from such things as illness, completely or not, we can reside in a shifting of perspective that can lighten the load on our mind by easing into acceptance of what is as what is. For instance, there are times I do a yoga practice diligently for weeks and then something inwardly shifts that either I can use my practice to work through it on a physical level or I take a break from the asanas and focus on other aspects of yoga to allow what's coming up to work its way through. It takes true insight to know when to stay in it or take a break. Pushing past it can work sometimes and at other times it can cause imbalances to deepen and karma to prolong.
The body is also subject to the elements, which is where Ayurveda takes this deeper, and that the body also unravels in its own way but inevitably itself returns to the five elements. The body has a story and through my yoga practice I have given it the space to show itself. There are times where I use the asanas to move things through and move through things. Then there are days where I don't do a physical asana practice but have an awareness of what is happening (usually and without the story) as if it's a walking meditation. I learned years and years ago that the point of doing yoga asanas was simply to strengthen and lengthen as we prepare the body to sit and meditate for extensive periods of time without distraction. Additionally, yoga asanas are designed to maintain vitality and energy of the body. Getting into a good regimen can help maintain the body. There are many simple poses that can achieve this without the modern definitions that yoga is about revolving around how well we can do arm balancing. Advanced poses are fun and I suppose they have purpose but even many of the great sages simply depended on a few techniques to keep the body agile while focusing on extensive pranayam (life force utilization) and meditative techniques. As for advanced poses, we can practice them over time but what I've noticed with some modern day yogi's/yogini's that such vigorous practices are wearing away at the body. Even within myself, I can idealize a pose and work towards it or with it but if the body genuinely feels that it's not interested and I still want the pose to happen then there's a discord and I injure myself. Which is counterproductive and sets me back a few weeks. It also shows that I didn't listen. There sometimes has to be a point to do it and not just furtherance of the ego wanting to prove something. (I don't know. It can be tricky and complicated.) I have no judgment about advanced poses versus not advanced. (As a side note: Yoga was designed for self-realization and it was also designed so that we can strengthen the body so that we would have more time for self-realization to happen, versus cause the body to break down faster, which seems to be happening to yogi's/yogini's in their later years from what I've encountered. Ayurveda brings a whole level of awareness that truly integrates the yoga practice and reduces wear and tear.)
I suppose it's relative because I can consider peacock pose advanced or I can simply enter my breath while in child's pose and go very deep. For me, it's not about the outside as much as it is about the inside and ironically the outside landscape depends on the seeds that are planted from within.
Anyways, there are many people practicing yoga, new and old students, and enlightenment hasn't come. Yoga asanas do not guarantee enlightenment but they do at least encourage a development of consciousness and hopefully at least encourage us be more loving and peaceful. That is if the instructor is instructing accordingly. I have known teachers who teach a basic eight Kriya techniques and have awakened and I have known other teachers to perform the poses that are exquisite to look at but are not very conscious. A teacher can only take their student as far as they have gone themselves but the journey is about the extent to which we have trekked the inner terrain because that's where the magic is. We can easily become distracted by even outer practices of the countless yoga poses but that's like knocking on the divines door but never walking in, even after the divine has said come in. It's with grace that we enter that place where the inner guru lives. It's within this place where the presence of essence presents us with our true selves.
For me, and in recent years, especially with the push for men's yoga and gymnastics of sorts, it's been about tuning in to what the body feels like it needs in the moment. Versus what my fellow dudes are up to based on the current yoga fitness fad. I could be in a 40 day sadhana (spiritual practice) that involves daily asana and pranayam excursions and then have puja offerings, and be ascetic. I could also just have days where I light my puja lamp and incense, say a quick mantra and call it a day as I continue my day. All of what I have learned, started with basics and have delivered me to today where I'm less reliant on techniques and more guided by the offering in the moment. I learned that my life itself is a daily puja to the divine within. I've become less distracted by the necessity of tools and find myself more integrated and connected the simpler I become. Yet, the basics of yoga is where I always come back to. The magic of yoga has captured me. I am inspired and enamored by it at this point. Every day is a dance with the divine and a play with consciousness. I can't force it to be anything more than it is in the moment. When the "timing is right" the grace of the goddess and invitation of Lord Shiva awaits. I can simply prepare space for it to happen and that can happen any number of ways. I am open to it and accept what's been here all along. I thank my inner knowing for helping me to integrate all the pieces of me so I can feel whole again. I'm grateful for finding my heart and being able to come from there more and less from my mind. I'm grateful for my first yoga class and teacher inspiration they had delivered me to this moment. I'm excited to see where the adventure is taking me. It's truly been an adventure and I'm alive in it with joy and excitation. Some days are crappy and some days are outstanding. They are just days and balance is the acceptance that what is in the moment is the only thing that's true and real. Coming into my heart in both instances simply ties it all together and provides me with comfort from a place that remains untouched by all these distractions. To be loving, kind, gentle, sensitive, non-judgmental, patient and compassionate is a gift we give ourselves because we are these and we get to share this with others and hopefully inspire others to look within for what is calling them in the whispers behind the delusions of time so the heart is heard and lived from. My heart is the biggest it's ever been and I'm still aware that I can be in a bigger place with love.
I invite you all to join me. Namaste and thank you for being here with me as part of my life's unfoldment!