Under my teacher’s tutelage, I recently began practicing a couple of the Third Series arm balances. Additionally, I invested in a Mysore rug….a beautiful purple cloth to cover my Manduka mat. While aesthetically pleasing, the Mysore rug gifts an uncanny challenge to the practitioner. When I practice barebacked on my Manduka sticky mat: my hands and feet grip with ease. Plant my chapped winter soles and palms on mysore rug…I am a slip and slide sideshow!
While enlightenment is an express train that bypasses Randee-Town at all costs, I have begun to notice changes. Primarily, the practice has become more difficult because I can’t cheat. I struggled for a couple of weeks: planting brain sensors on my hands and feet…those phalanges just did not want to grip! The Prasarita Padatonasa series, once the garden party of the standing series…has become a struggle! Regardless, practice manifests muscle memory and patience. Weeks later, I find a new way to approach the series relying more on strength and bandhas and less on the convenience of a sticky mat.
Bandhas, Bandhas, Bandhas. Third series is all about the bandhas. Mula Band and Uddyana Bandha…when I activate the energy locks I try to picture an internal force protecting my vital organs…recalibrating my energetic rhythms so that I can be more aligned with the universal song. Strong ujjay breath is an excellent back-pocket/back of the throat/weapon. My mentor repeatedly reminds us to make our breath loud enough to drown out our thoughts. Naturally, I fall at the end of the functionally -neurotic -spectrum. Accordingly, when I practice I breathe enthusiastically! Unless, my boyfriend lies sleeping in the same room: in which case I attempt to breathe in a less disturbing manner. When he spends the night, I try not to practice nakrasana the next morning (Sorry K, I did it today!). Kyle calls Nakarasana the universal wake up call.
Strong breath, supple body, serene mind. Even at the wee hour of 7am, my brain is functioning at light speed. I follow the enticing rhythm of the breath. I visualize the way the breath spreads a warming energy down my throat and into my heart. Somehow, then the breath takes an anti-gravity—ascent…soaring up to my brain massaging away the thoughts. Every time I have a thought about anything, I question, is this impertinent to my immediate safety? If the reflection does not affect my immediate livelihood, then I turn my attention back to the breath. I do this constantly throughout my practice: especially during “easy” asanas like forward folds and difficult postures like every single pose in second series except for Parighasana. In the aftermath, I admittedly struggle to seek solace in savasana. Without the obscene orchestra of my breath…a menacing zoetrope of thoughts parades freely behind my closed eyes. Hours later after pranyama and the rush to get to work….I reflect on the silver strand connecting my thoughts: a bejeweled rope braided with tumultuous threads of anxiety wading in a ominous lake of unworthiness.
When you close your eyes what do you see? Usually, behind shut lids I see a grayish hue of muddled green. Eyes closed, the mind turns inwards. Fantasies, neurotic toxicities….who is the protagonist on channel you: your inner teacher or your guru? Should I discipline my mind to follow the narrow path? Or, should I give my brain permission to stretch and sing sinuously? Here, can I explore the ideas and colors hidden in my brain? Can I give my thoughts permission to reign freely? Or does my Laissez-faire approach encourage my anxious aspirations to ascend throne and rule my world?
Visualize. Can you visualize yourself succeeding?
The drishti or gaze is not a fashion accessory in the yoga practice. You keep your gaze focused, and your energy ascends to the trajectory of your sacred eyes. For example, in downward dog, I draw my -3.75 and -3.25 eyeballs towards my navel. Now, it easier for me to enlist my baddhas! I pull my belly to my spine as I exhale. As I exhale, I gently engage mula bandha: lifting through the pelvic floor to develop dimensionality in the practice.
Do you drive with you eyes closed?
Bending back into Kapotasana can be scary. Accordingly, you might crank your neck to see where you are going. Keeping the neck calm, and visualizing the descent takes a lot of faith. I bring my hands in prayer and visualize touching my wonderful ankles. Arms lift up, saluting earth and acknowledging my humility… I lean back into nothingness. My hands meet the ankles….or today just the earth. I recommit to my breath and bandhas….and move my hands and head into peak positioning. I enjoy the journey that I visualized. I thank the earth, the elements, and my body.
When I jump into bakasana in second series, I prepare myself. During my last exhale in Dog, I visualize my knees landing and staying on my upper arms. If it doesn’t happen, I try again. I don’t lose my breath. I don’t lose my temper.
Visualize in your practice. Keep your eyes on the prize on and off the mat. Visualize good relationships with your friends and family. Open your eyes and see the beauty outside your door: birds bursting with song…opalescent ocean waves crashing on soft sands. Forget-me-blue-skies everywhere in between our dark and light spaces.
When I leave the mat, the day is an unpaved parchment of possibilities. I have a choice to be bitchy, to be rude, or to be patient and kind. I have a choice to be present in my interactions, and to see the energy that creatures share with me. Or, I can stay in my brain exploring colors and silent symphonies…Russian roulette…will untamed mind take me to luminous lakes or surly seas?
“ Everything you think is make believe. What you see with your eyes open or closed is real. Pay attention to what you see, hear and feel.”
Keep your eyes on your prize.