I’ve enjoyed New Scientist for many years, and I thoroughly recommend getting yourself a subscription. It really is news without bias – albeit science-related news. But, there are verifiable facts to be read, whereas pretty much every other news source has its own bias.
Anyway, lately I’ve been reading some very interesting articles about energy and information, and I think that they a direct relationship to our Yoga and Hot Yoga practice here in Bristol, and worldwide.
Quantum physics says that matter – at the smallest level – isn’t solid. It’s clouds of energy, and it’s impossible to know for sure what it’s doing unless you measure it. When you measure it, all the possibilities it could hold (the wave function) collapse into one outcome.
I think that rings true of any situation. I can’t see the future, but I’ll give it all my best shot and see how things turn out.
This New Scientist article goes on to say, “How did our universe come to be, out of a seemingly vast number of equally likely possibilities allowed by the laws of physics?”
You love Yoga and Hot Yoga, and you’ve been practicing consistently for a while. You love the way it makes you feel, and you really notice when you can’t go for any reason. Life just seems simpler and more manageable when you practice regularly, even though nothing’s really changed. Sure, there are times when you feel like just staying at home and vegging out. But you get up and get to class anyway, because you know that you’ll be glad you did.
Does any of this ring true for you? Yep, you’ve got the Hot Yoga bug alright!
If this is you, then you’ve already come a long way. If you could see the person you were, if you could see your posture shapes the first time you went to class, then you’d be amazed at how much you’ve changed since then. It might feel like that’s all thanks to the magic of Yoga and Hot Yoga. And it is, but there’s more: it’s your hard work that’s moved you forward, and the good guidance of the studio and teachers you’ve stuck with.
The name comes from the Sanskrit words chatur meaning “four”, anga meaning “limb”, danda meaning “staff” (refers to the spine, the central “staff” or support of the body), and asana meaning “posture” or “seat”. Here is a picture showing utthitha (extended) chatturanga dandasana and chatturanga dandasana:
As you can see, four limbs really are supporting the staff of the spine! In one of the pictures, you can see that we have body-painted a teacher so that we can demonstrate more about the anatomical structure of the pose. You can learn more too – see below for details.
Right now is the time when teacher trainees earn our respect the most, at the half-way point of the program. They’ve already learned a great deal: they can plan and hold safe classes, and they can discuss Yoga and anatomy in ways they never anticipated. But most of all they understand how little we all really know, and that’s a sobering realisation.
Training is also difficult because our relationship to practice changes. Yoga was always there for us in the past: the one refuge from all that modern-day madness was the little temple of the Yoga mat. But now in Yoga and Hot Yoga classes, we find ourselves analysing the sequence, checking our alignment – sometimes with self-criticism – and assessing how the teacher is delivering the practice. Naturally, people ask: “Will I ever get MY Yoga back again?”
The short answer is: Yes, you will, and it’ll happen with a new richness of knowledge and depth of understanding about what you’re doing. There’ll be a feeling of new magic in your practice once you integrate your course experiences. But first, something equally magical but very different has to happen. It’s a kind of re-birth, and like all beautiful birth events, it comes with its measure of difficulty.
Each morning, my three-year-old son and I squeeze some citrus fruits for our morning drinks. He has an orange and usually a couple of satsumas as well. I have a lemon and a lime. I cut them in half and we smell the different fruits. For the orange, he says “Yum!”. For the lemon and lime, he says “Yuk!”. Then we put them down and look at the segmented patterns in each, how they all have lots of pockets of juice built around the pith inside. I like doing this, because it shows him that things can be the same, but different. I think that’s a great way for little ones to realise that people can also be treated with the same respect, even though they’re different.
Each cell in your body is individually alive. When you put them all together, the resulting form is also alive. “You” and the sum of all your cells live your life of work, family and friends. Nothing you do is directly what your individual cells do, yet they stay alive and so do you.
If we generalise that thinking, then all the plants and animals on the planet together might also add up to make a much bigger organism. The Earth itself might be alive, literally a planetary life form of its own. It certainly sounds plausible.
Where does the reasoning end? Well, if there’s life on other planets then – perhaps – all life everywhere adds up to a universe which is itself a form of life. What I’m getting to is that it’s at least plausible that a consciousness far greater than the human mind exists. Quite how it came to be…I don’t know. I’ve presented one idea, but that’s just an idea. Anyway, the point at which this greater consciousness (if it’s there at all) connects to its human counterpart is sahasrara.
It’s worth starting with a (very paraphrased) Hindu story called the Samudra manthan. I really am paraphrasing here, but in essence, gods and demons collectively wanted to find an elixir of immortality. How a common goal can unite different groups… They combined their power and unearthed it – but in the process, also released a toxin so deadly that it could destroy the whole world. This is beginning to sound more and more like modern economics! They were at a loss what to do with this terrible stuff, until Shiva stepped in. He took the poison, and drank it. He didn’t swallow it, and it remains there suspended in his throat for Vishuddhi chakra to purify and transmute. It’s said to have turned his throat blue, which is why he is often depicted blue and associates the colour blue with Vishuddhi.
Vishuddhi translates to something along the lines of special purity. To me, it’s a reminder that it’s good to be comfortable with truth. Being able to tolerate truth really does purify difficult situations – if all players in the scene really can work with the truth of the matter. To be comfortable with truth would be to be happy giving, receiving and dealing with it – even when it’s something we would rather avoid. Again, the parallels with contemporary world situations are startling.
Anahata means sound produced without touching parts together. An unplayed musical instrument is capable of producing any melody. Anahata is a reference to the pure potential that is the force behind any creative act. Love is seen as the most creative thing of all, because it limits negativity and destruction.
We do creative things out of desire. It’s not always out of love. What’s the difference, and what’s the relationship between love and desire? The difference is that doing something out of love is doing it for the benefit of all. Recognising interdependence is an Anahata experience. For instance, with 7 billion or so people alive now, it’s no longer possible to treat the natural world as a set of resources. It’s becoming essential to participate in the life-supporting processes of the Earth, instead of just assuming they function regardless of what we do.
But desire is the access point. Through practice, we create the space to be with desires, rather than act them out. We get to understand our motives and the issues (real or imagined) that we’re trying to address. Acting out the desire is just one response: pausing for a moment means we might find a different response, such as a root-cause fix. In other words, we get beneath the wants to the real needs, we get from the mind’s desire to the heart’s desire.
Ultimately, love is usually the heart’s desire, and the actions borne out of love usually lead to the greater good.
People say that love is vulnerable. I tend to feel that love is courageous. It’s even possible that love doesn’t give a damn about anything except love! So, we can’t talk about love without talking about fear. Fear is the opposite of love in a lot of ways, because love includes and embraces, whereas fear excludes and repels.
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