My little girl shares my love for books and as a nine year old, her choice of books is largely determined by the number of pictures it has. She loves the written word too but any book has to have pictures in it to be interesting.
I have picture books too!
Earlier I spent more time reading the instructions and cursorily looked at the pictures of Guruji and Geetaji’s poses in ‘Light on Yoga’ and ‘Yoga- a Gem for Women’. Today while reading up on some of the asanas in Geetaji’s book, I spent more time looking at the images and noticing little things like the arches, toes and fingers. It was not just hands and legs and their general direction. A year down the line, they may present themselves even more differently. Today, they were fascinating to just look at.
It got me thinking about how children learn, they mimic. They don’t require complicated reasoning or explanations, they just watch and replicate perfectly. Amma would teach tiny tots (who still had to learn to read and write) the Geeta shlokas and they would recite it flawlessly. Perhaps it is their gift of being present wholly in the moment.
Some of the actions in the poses are slightly different from the instructions we receive in class. Adho Mukha Svanasana is a pose that looks different when the teachers demonstrate in class. Perhaps it is to make it accessible to us beginners or maybe the changes have happened over the years as a result of their combined practices. After all, those books were published many years ago. My practice is still very much in the realm of gross muscular movements, a sort of a slow waking up to my body.
While wriggling my toes a few months ago, I wondered if I could isolate movements in individual toes. No reason other than to see if I could train it. It was not a deliberate plan but whenever I remembered about that idea, I just concentrated my attention on a single toe. I have managed to isolate it to a certain extent. Now I can flex just the second toe at will. It seems frivolous as a pursuit but I found it enlightening to see how much of our body can be trained using the mind. The same principle is at work when the instructions are to lift the arches or move the back thigh behind. I have to take my attention to that location and over time, there is sensitivity generated in that area.
While reading some of the instructions, it struck me once again how much I have to learn. I struggle with the asanas most of the time and if I miss a regular practice due to any reason, the body springs back quickly into its stiffness. I missed a couple of days of the Week 4 sequence and so decided to continue with it for a day or two. There was a small incident with the brick while I was trying to release my hamstrings and I injured myself. The brick flipped and my spine jerked violently. Right then, I knew that I hurt the same spot that I had injured about a year and a half ago in the class I used to go to. Back then, I was given some twisting and forward bends so I just repeated those poses now. The concave back position in the forward extensions gives relief for a while. It is a bit better but looks like it will take its time. I guess it’s a long way before my spine becomes strong and supple enough to withstand all kinds of shocks.