Amongst the various fine arts, sculpting fascinates me. Unlike paintings, where one creates on a blank canvas, sculpting is an unveiling, an uncovering. The stone is chipped off to reveal what is within already. Yoga is like that too, except that the sculptor and the sculpture are one.
While waiting in line to sign up for the next academic year, I was looking at a happy idol outside Guruji’s house. Head at a slight tilt, open feet and easy arms all in one fluid stillness. It’s one of many sculptures that pepper the Institute and its premises. I’m not sure which deity or mythological character this one is. The figure sits atop a lotus set on top of a creature with tusks There are other figures below the pedestal but I’m not quite sure what they signify. I wonder who I could ask for a little more about its origin and details.
His foot caught my fancy. The left sole is open like a book, completely at ease. How many human bodies have that same graceful presence? The foot fascinates me endlessly and this sculpture has a beautiful presentation of the soles. One of the beautiful aspects of Indian art is the effortless weaving of religion to express. Sculptures to music and dance and even our clothing! Art is nothing but an expression of bhakti.
Our bodies are like books, some parts an unwitting expression of our deepest desires and fears. Our backs are honest, beyond the field of our eyes, they rarely lie. Besides the feet, I’ve been an observer of the paschima of bodies. Sometimes on runs, I see people in front of me and their backs are interesting to observe. It reminds me of my slouched and hunched posture of not too long ago. My entire being was a reflection of the dullness and ache inside at that time. It is a lot different now and the whole emphasis of lifting and opening the chest in class has created a transformation in my mental and emotional posture too.
As the academic year draws to an end, there is a little more confidence in being able to practice at home. The confusion of what, why, when and how has cleared a bit to allow a thought out approach to practice rather than just repetition. Thanks to my teachers who have taught us so well, there has been progress and a desire to keep practising. I have been lax in my studies of the texts though and that’s something that needs to change.
Last class started with adho mukha svanasana in the rope. We rarely do it considering the number of students. However, it is an everyday pose for me at home as I slip into the ropes for a quick release and recharge. While the rope cut in for most students, it was a familiar sensation associated with relief from pain for me. One of the students remarked how the imprint of it was felt even after. That deep impression was missing for me, perhaps it is the familiarity with the cutting action. Or maybe, just a tolerance for discomfort.
On the other hand, I did find a great deal of opening in my knees. As an asana, I’ve seen it as a bare minimum if I cannot practise everyday. But, most of the time, I think of keeping the legs straight and releasing the back. I’ve never considered it as something to address the knees. One of the things our teacher says is to use the pose for your problem areas, be it the knees, back, shoulder etc. It’s so easy to forget all the things I remember from class when I get on my mat at home.
Often, the imprints of practising in a certain manner carry on without my realising it. Just like the imprints of thought patterns, behaviour tendencies etc. Externally, I am working but it is not with awareness or intelligence. It’s just repetition and a little increase in range of motion. Going through the motions of life without really being aware with every thought, word and deed. Sure, repetition makes actions easier and change happens. But, transformation needs imprints of a different kind to channel his will, not mine. I think it is more of a removal of all imprints to allow the full expression of the Self. Definitely not in this lifetime. Vasanas give rise to desires which in turn are responsible for the agitations in the mind, as Swamiji says.
I’ve found myself quite in the grip of these ‘tendencies‘ yet again. It’s so easy to slide back while the climb is painfully slow. So, I turn back to the texts. I find writing/ typing them therapeutic. (Phase 1 of my reference project is almost at an end.) As always, the brilliance of the Divine Song is beyond compare and calms my heart. It kindles hope. Arjuna’s doubts are my doubts; his despondency, mine. As are his curiosity, awe, and all other emotions. It never fails to make me stand up and fight, even if it be for just a moment. How can one not, when the charioteer blows his conch?