Focus of the Month: January, 2017
You know the story of the student who says to the teacher, “I studied eight years with so-and-so and two years with so-and-so, and I know all about this and that and the other.” As he is speaking the teacher is pouring a cup of tea. The student is going on about all his credentials and why the teacher should teach him. The teacher is still pouring the tea, which is now pouring out of the cup, all over the table and dripping on the student. “What are you doing?” the student asks. “Are you crazy? Why’d you do that?” The teacher laughs and says “You’re like the cup. You’re already full, and I can’t teach you. It would be like trying to put more tea in the cup; it’s not going to happen.”
Letting go, or the release, of a restricted way of moving is essential to being filled back up. That emptying out process is a surrender. Surrender has a negative connotation to us. It usually means that we have lost. But in this case it allows us to let go of the way things have been and embrace newness as it appears in each moment. We are able to find a new range of motion with new possibilities and thoughts coming into our minds.
We can see how we’ve been indoctrinated by our culture in the ways that we move. In some places we shake hands, while in others that's not considered a good thing to do. There are differences in how women and men move, and how people signal and interact with one another. We learn these ways of being. As we grow older, we become more attached to our own set of prohibitions and possibilities. They become narrower and less available if you are only walking down the same path every day.
A new way of approaching the future is expanding what is possible rather than limiting it. There are actually a thousand different ways you can get to work instead of taking the same route each day. The key is not clinging to how we've always lived our lives. Most of our decisions are made according to how we’ve been programmed instead of spontaneity, creativity and originality. If you were raised with writers, musicians or dancers you might be more likely to tap into the universal consciousness and conduct real creativity instead of the same old ideas.
We would all like to know how to step forward in a way that doesn’t hurt others. It is good for us and good for the Earth. We want to orient our self to the Earth in all kinds of ways so that we get different points of view; upside down, right-side up, half-way turned around. Those are very potent things to do with your body. They can deprogram you, opening up the list of possible ways of being. We all have certain prejudices about what we are capable of. For example, the thought "I have very little upper body strength." That’s not a fact. That’s an idea. It’s not a matter of lifting weights. It’s a matter of what you already decided the possibilities were. "A world without war? No way!” As long as you have that thought, then you’re going to live in a world where there is no way of living without war.
Look at the hip socket. The possible range of movement is big, but if all you do in your life is sit at a desk and barely walk around, then you see the range as small. The joint is unable to find its full potential. That limited range of movement is also in your brain and nervous system. Your ability to understand, comprehend and accept new ways of being are also limited in the same way. The body’s limitation is a reflection of the mind’s limitation.
Usually what happens is the mind, because of its limitation, creates an action. The Sanskrit word for action is karma, which means any action: word, thought or step. The law of karma says that any action will continue on, reverberate and come back to you eventually. If you’ve ever thrown a pebble on a pond it sends out these waves. As soon as they hit the border of the pond they start to come back to the original spot. So every action we’ve done in this life and past lives are inside this body. The results are the restrictions, the tightness, the closed mind. The inability to be creative, spontaneous and to invent new possibilities is because of those past actions. The yoga practice allows you to bring those past actions to completion. Get them out of there!
~ David Life
- Set up the room in a different way than usual, such as mats facing towards each other or in a circle.
- Change the order of elements in the class. Do you always chant or talk first? Do you always place meditation last? Vary and integrate the components of the class.
- When sequencing hip-openers, include asanas that incorporate internal rotation such as Virasana. We often only think of hip openers as forward bends and lateral rotation. Remember range of motion includes the full range of movement.
- Explore news ways of entering into an asana. Explain there are many different ways to reach the same destination.
- Work on prep work to increase the range of motion for more advanced asanas.
- Give students some time in class to explore creative movement, such as guiding them to create their own Surya Namsaskar, dancing, or a walking meditation.