Tapah svādyāya īśhvara-pranidhānāni kriya-yogah. PYS 2.1
You must be fueled by a burning desire to continuously study the Self, which is only available in the present moment, and to devote yourself wholly to this effort – these are the action to attain yoga.
A dynamic Vinyasa practice can teach us many things; this is why it’s one of the core aspects of the Jivamukti Open Classes. The krama (progressions) can elucidate how most anything is possible, if we consistently pursue it in truthful stages, honouring where the body exists in the moment. Moving with the breath teaches us to move inside and with our bodies, to be conscious and sensitive as we place pieces in a physical conversation while seeking awareness in the whole. Conversation to conversation, relationship to relationship, sensitivity to sensitivity. We move within multiple dialogues.
In these flowing moments, we might also learn how to leave things behind, holding focus on our presence, not being trapped by any-one or any-thing that distracts us from finding liberation in the body, breath, brain, and Being. One of the most beautiful aspects of Surya Namaskar and its cadence can be that we we don’t speed up the moments we want to take slowly, and we don’t slow down the things we want to rush. The cadence is steady and even, and we explore those first sensitivities of sama vrtti (the evenness/sameness of the fluctuations.)
But sometimes, the speed changes the sensitivities. The warmer we are, the easier the movement, even with injured or adhesed tissues. So, when we slow down, and the body is cold, we start to notice the truer State of being.
Yin Yoga is a different animal to the dynamic vinyasa, the elephant to the leopard. Both beautiful. Both powerful. Both elegant creatures worthy of deep respect. And while they carry similar qualities of strength and majesty, the awareness of the world around them- the sight-line and experience- are vastly different.
We know that our asana (connection to the earth) should be sthiram sukham (steady/stable and joyful/spacious). But many times, we just rush through, carrying our joy in the movement forward, instead of the actual tacking down and allowing our joy to grow from the connecting itself.
So in Yin we slow down. Really slow down. Five minutes per pose (or more)– slow down. And it holds up a mirror to the inherent rushing, the need to fly through and not pay attention.
What we find, beyond the confrontation of our instinctive patterning, is that in the slowing down we finally sit with, feel through, and ultimately heal all those things we shove to the back of our brains. That’s why 10 breaths in paschimottanasana in Class can unearth things you buried when you were 10 years old.
Very similar to a classical hatha yoga practice, holding a moment on our mat teaches us fortitude and perseverance. It shows us that by staying with this conversation and orientation with our body, by softening into it, we can do more than make it through; we can sink into an entirely different relationship with that thing that gave us so much anguish. It changes the dialogue between forcing your way through a moment and feeling your way through.
After all, the way we practice, how we practice, is the way we approach relationships in general. And if we rush transitions and relationships on the mat, we probably will rush transitions in life.
But we can change the dialogue. We can change the speed. It’s just about developing different muscles.
Tapah means to burn, and in most yoga conversations this means that heat is brought up in conversation. But I like the concept that burning brightly, like an oil lamp, can be done in stillness—blazing brilliance in deep stillness. Like when you tell a small child that vegan ice cream is in their future, their face lights up! That happiness and excitement for the Present. It doesn’t matter if they’re wearing the jumper they hate, or if they have to clean under their bed when they get home, this moment right now is lit up. Radiance and radical presence – showing up and lighting up, specifically for the things you can address. You can change how much tension you carry. You can change how tight a muscle is, how strong a muscle is. For these things we have control.
Īśhvara-pranidhānāni means to devote or give all your actions to God. Ever heard the phrase “Let go and let God.”? Perhaps you’ve chanted with Sharonji or many Jivamukti Teachers, “Make me an instrument- not my will, but Yours be done.” Surrender and relaxation, specifically on the outcomes of effort or the things you cannot change. You cannot change the length of bones, or the attachment sites of muscles, or your height. You cannot change how someone else sees you; what people think of us is none of our business. For these things, we need to let go.
Svādyāya means an inner enquiry of the higher self. So in essence, it’s paying attention, diving into Practice and noticing the difference between these other two. It’s the wisdom to know the difference between what you can force and what you can feel out, what you need to bring into the conversation and what you need to leave alone.
So, basically, transformation in a yoga sense is the Serenity Prayer. (And Patañjali gave it to us two hundred years before the Council of Nicaea pieced together the Christian Bible as we know it.) Yin shows us these things; it allows this meditation on transformation to unfold; it shows us what’s buried and broken because we stop moving and start listening. And then we return to the dynamic Vinyasa more integrated. I know some would disagree, but after two decades of Yoga practice and teaching, I believe Yin can be the penultimate Ahimsa meditations. Just like how our approach to asana mirrors our relationships in others situations, when we start cultivating true love towards our own vehicle of Soul, it pours out into how we treat others. Plant the seed; begin with love, radiate love.
Yin creates/cultivates/sustains/reminds/rebuilds/retrains self-love. and that for me was the whole reason I continued. My own history was one of self-loathing/self-deprecation/self-hatred/self-abuse. My Yoga practice helped me see it, but it wasn’t until I had to stop “running” in my flow – it wasn’t until I had to stay in one place and breathe – that the disgust and resentment started to run. But it didn’t run away; It ran down my cheeks. Surprisingly, disgust and resentment are really wet and salty.
Beyond these personal reasons, the slow deep stretches, and the longer fuller breathing also release GABA – that neurotransmitter that make us feel happier and more contented, decreases inflammation and deepens sleep. And many students double their mobility and flexibility in a very short time.
Prepare to slow it down and light it up. Prepare to deepen your breath and deepen your sensitivity. Prepare to unwind and unfold what was previously locked down.
Weekly Classes at Jivamukti Yoga School NYC will start on June 1st.
Tuesdays 8:05pm-9:20pm and Saturdays 6:15-7:30pm.