what is yoga?



During this morning’s practice, I asked my teacher if it was better to keep both of my hips grounded in Marichyasana D –OR- let the back hip float but ground the knee instead. Reaffirming that the primary goal is the twist and the bind that are the priority. Having no issues there, yet not able to ground both the knee and the hips simultaneously, I asked her my question again. She responded again, saying that in all of Primary Series the objective healing comes from the concentrated abdominal squeezing action more than anything else. “Bandhas”, she said, “You don’t find them. They find you.”

Thinking back to a recent conversation around Garbha Pindasana, I asked if that is why we are encouraged to thread our arms through our lotus. She smiled, and walked away.

A few poses later in my practice, I retrieved the water bottle and worked on the pose as best as I am currently able. Although the water did a nice job of allowing me to thread, the tighter ball I was in made it challenging to stay on my mat while rolling around in the circle before trying to lift up into Kukkutasana. I struggled but stuck with it trying to keep my mind on the moment instead of where it has been for the past week: Stuck in a conversation about using water to thread the arms.

We sat on our mats waiting for the final day of Sharath’s visit to Stanford to begin. With this being my 3rd year with him, I have accepted the fact that an assist from Sharath was not in the cards for me. Nonetheless, I am well aware that my practice has many areas where it is lacking. The day before, Sharath stood at the front of my mat and, speaking to my friend on the mat beside me, questioned why he didn’t thread his arms through his lotus in Garbha Pindasana since he appeared to have “large holes” that would allow for a good attempt to be made. Meanwhile, I teetered on my sit bones with no more than my hands squeezed through my own lotus. On my first day with Sharath, I didn’t even try. It was all I could manage on my own. When my friend politely stated that he couldn’t do that part of the pose, Sharath walked away.

Later that morning, I gave my friend sh!t for refusing to give it a try. I called it encouragement but we all know that, in reality, it was jealously. For while the conversation was going on beside me, I secretly (or selfishly) was wishing he would’ve offered me the assist instead.

Now the following morning, I brought it up again:

Me: “If he comes by again, I hope you’ll give it a try.”
She Yogi: “I don’t get the point of putting your arms through.”
Me: “It intensifies the abdominal contraction; helps you to access the bandhas more fully. You can experience it for yourself with a little water at home. Maybe even some light oil if you want.”
She: “That hardly sounds like yoga to me.”
Me: “. . .” [speechless]

I held my tongue. But my mind began whirling. I thought to myself: “It’s more yogic than your response.”

Of course my thought wasn’t very yogic either. Come to think of it, neither was my harassing my friend to thread his arms through his lotus. AND…my jealousy about the fact that he got offered the assist instead of me isn’t yoga either.

The thing is, we can judge all we want. The reality is that it is ALL yoga and, at the same time, NONE of it is yoga. It is the working through it that we do, on an off our mats, that is the yoga. It is a process and we are all working on it in our own way. While I know that my need to share the story is also NOT YOGA, it too, is part of the process.

It is all work that I am doing – much like being stuck on my back, half on and half off my mat with my arms wedged in my lotus. You can call me out on it but please don’t judge. I do enough of that on my own.

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