Holiday practice- Gomukhasana

Thought I’d practice to one of my teacher’s classes but about 20 minutes in, I went my own way. Gomukhasana was on my mind since yesterday’s Garudasana exploration and I tinkered around playing with the leg position. Light on Yoga and Niño gave silent company as virasana and its variations, bhekasana, rajkapotasana, ek pada rajkapotasana, dhanurasana, etc. laid themselves out. It was not an in-depth study but more in the nature of a tasting. Touch and go as I tested the ability and capacity of the body. I’ve been more cautious than risk taking with respect to knee positions and it seems ok so far.

It is fascinating how time flies when on the mat some days. Today felt a bit like playing lego. Make, unmake, remake and so on as I entered gomukhasana through different doors. And in the bargain, the route that is emerging seems to be one that will aid some of the asanas that I struggle with like chaturanga dandasana and the balancing ones.

Something from today’s morning reading (2.25) stayed- ‘All these are subject to the gunas, which blend the behavioural pattern of an individual. If we understand the flow of these forces, we can reach balance, and from balance go on to true freedom. If not, we are swayed from one extreme to another, between pleasure and another pain. Yoga, says Patanjali, is the way to harmonize ourselves at every level with the natural order of the universe, from the physical to the most subtle, to reach the total state of health which brings stability, to cultivate the mind with real understanding, and to reach out ultimately to undifferentiated infinity.’

The concept of gunas is such a simple and profound one. The progression from understanding to balance to freedom as mentioned in the commentary matches the same simplicity and profundity of the concept itself. As I look at the sutras again and again, listen to some of their unpacking, I remain mesmerized by not just the thoughts but also the order and clean delivery. In my early readings of the Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, these were accessible through the lens of asana but over time, I am beginning to see how richly packed it is.

Time

My days have been a whirlwind and sleep is in short supply. Work calls for punishing travel schedules these days and I hustle to ensure that yoga days are sacrosanct. Somehow in all this manic activity, I also find it possible to be present in whatever I am doing. This morning, my daughter and I spent a few minutes catching up before school. I hadn’t seen her all day yesterday and the little morning conversation was leisurely and loving. I could both experience and witness it as such not in retrospect but as it unfolded. I was reminded of the sutra that explores the transcendence of time and gunas (4:33). No claim to any such ability😁

I’m learning to carve out time as opportunity presents itself rather than being fixated on a rigid schedule. It’s a change, the ability to adjust, readjust willingly and without resistance. This has allowed me to fit in a few walks in the woods as well as time to read and write. Most of all, it has removed the weight of expectations, leaving my inner house open to welcome every experience as it arises. Life is lighter and there is more laughter. Often, we students are a serious lot and our teacher lightens our faces and bodies with humorous observations. We forget that laughter is a natural state and perhaps if we could laugh like children, spontaneously, much of the weight in our lives would be lightened.A tiny burst of sunshine on the ground, yellow magic

Class was brilliant as always and I learn as my teacher teaches us and the other teachers. It’s beautiful to watch her do both simultaneously without missing anything. At one point a few years ago, I thought I might want to teach but increasingly I find probably not. I’m content to just be there, help out, learn and explore. I still don’t understand how and why I was asked to come to help. I can’t do so many asanas the others can, simplest of which is a sirsasana in the middle. But, I show up and soak all that is around. And I believe that someday that sirsasana will also happen. It has happened for many others before me. So, I attempt in class with the help of others. That much I can do.

Tamas

Sometimes there are periods of silence, a heavy silence of the mind. The words don’t flow. The thoughts stay inert. Tamas. It’s been a while since the guna has been sitting inside. Below is an entry I had started more than a month ago. It doesn’t seem that odd now to see how long I’ve ‘sat’ on this.

2nd Dec 2016

Tamas is heavy, dark, dull, sluggish, reluctant to move and so on. Almost all negative connotations. Yet, it is very much a part of the trigunas, swirling in constant rearrangement. The endeavour in Spiritual practices is to sublimate tamas to sattva and then go beyond the gunas. 

Lately, the pages have been opening to the gunas and tamas cropped up a few times. It got me thinking about the purpose of the heavy guna. Perhaps, its manifestation is what I see in my mental makeup lately. I notice that food is one of the easiest ways to change the composition of the gunas. Movement is harder but that’s another thing that works. I’ve been getting plenty of movement with back to back runs but not the mindful kind that energises. The two classes sandwiched between the runs during the week are intense and my legs are heavy. Tamasic. I do have the tools to change the composition but tamas plays its devious role, preventing restorative action. It’s a vicious circle, one that is unfamiliar in recent times. 

The gunas provide the answer for why. It appears simple on the surface and at times sounds like excuses. But, below the apparent simplicity lies a detailed map of existence. What would the planet be if there was no tamas? Imagine the ground beneath in constant flux or just beams of light. 
Guna means rope or that which binds. The strength of a rope is dependent on the twisting of the strands. In balance, it is sturdy. The fluctuations start when the strands are not twisted equally. 

In the past few weeks, I have been feeling the tug of heaviness. It crept up slowly and before I knew it, took over my life. Inertia, apathy, lethargy make it difficult to do anything beyond the absolute essentials. On the outside, I still get by but I miss the lightness and agility of my mind. Despite knowing what to do, I remain ignorant and unable to change at present. It seems like a herculean task to get back on track.

The only saving grace is the tiny bit of reading that happens in the morning. Asana practice is also erratic but strangely, the poses look better now and feel more stable. Even when I don’t practice, I still check if ardha chandrasana happens or try repeating the trikonasana actions while waiting in the kitchen. It’s not by fluke but for real when I can stay steady for a bit. Does that count? Perhaps not but for a little while, I feel good. The body tingles with life coursing through.

The Bhagawad Geeta 3:31

This morning’s reading was on karma yog and the answer was literally handed to me. Action is the magic word. So, action it was today. A quick trip to the flower market to buy some flowers, coffee with a dear friend, a productive day at work, a short run, an inversion practice, writing, chores and reading. 

Some of my observations from these past few weeks.

  • Ever since I got back to using deos which happened during my travelling and never got off, I started to get PMS symptoms again. Just a couple of days off and the tenderness has reduced dramatically. 
  • Knocking off the sugar from my coffee today seemed to have lifted the fog in my head. 
  • My food habits also got out of it’s settled rhythm and never been quite the same. I was eating more than I needed due to various reasons. I stopped being firm in refusing what I didn’t want.
  • Compared to a few months back, there has been more engagement with people too. It can be draining if I haven’t taken care of all aspects of my self. 
  • I need study, regular and intensive study to keep going. Just a line or two doesn’t suffice. 
  • It takes a long while of small changes to build a new habit yet disruption is rapid.

This is a post I didn’t want to put up but it is part of the experience as well. Perhaps in sharing about my struggles, I may find the freedom to endeavour again. Somewhere, the tenacious runner in me digs in her heels to fall seven times but get up, eight. Tamas needs tapas.

Hari Om