Sunday, November 11, 2012

When all else melts away.

"One looks, and looks long, 
and the world comes in."
-Joseph Campbell

"Don't blink your eyes or you might lose your balance." My teacher's voice is confident and stern, sometimes wavering on the line of arrogant, but done in such a way that something tells me to trust it. The words are simple and clear, gently trickling from the podium on which the teacher’s stands, surrounding and seeping into my mind until they essentially become my master. Line by line, minute by minute I obey this dialogue, stretching and straining through each of the twenty-six postures done twice in the humid, 105 degree room, hyper aware of each subtle step, ache, and release, even down to every precise drop of sweat that falls from my body to the soaked towel planted firmly beneath my feet.

I've been practicing Bikram Yoga since January, the yoga that is often misunderstood and even frowned on by many, skeptical of the extreme temperatures, the quirky founder, and over-sexualized reputation, yet this yoga is more adored than criticized. Now I know there is good reason for the passionate, cult-like following of this practice, as it's swept me up into its web, luring me with the pain and pleasure that so many have come to know and love.

 I never understood prior to starting Bikram why it was referred to as a “journey,” but now as I continue to practice, I realize there is no better word. Bikram is a journey to unravel yourself through what at times feels torturous... the pain of breaking through stored injury, stress and emotion the body accumulates through the years of simply living, and rediscovering inch by painful inch everything the ever-connected body and mind have tried to forget, storing these toxic parts deep into the psyche and muscles, protecting you from their harmful grip. There are no short cuts in this journey, and the right way is certainly the most difficult way. Over time there are improvements and there are set-backs, but you continue the practice with improved strength and belief because you know that every tiny step leads you to wellness and self-discovery in ways you’d never expected when you first begun.

To do this yoga, you must face yourself. You are vulnerable and stripped down in every way possible; very little clothing to bear the heat, watching your body unflinchingly in the enormous mirrors, eyes stinging from sweat, muscles straining through the postures commanding every last ounce of strength they have, and having to consciously choose to remain calm and focused in what at times can feel like chaos. The chaos is created by the mind, wanting to just run- run out of the room and into fresh air, where you don't have to face the pain, the truths, the work, and the parts of yourself you dislike. We often do this in our everyday lives, attempting to run and fill them with unnecessary busy tasks, self-medicate with various unhealthy "Band-Aids " or actively seek any other external validation that ultimately won't fulfill us. All of these created escape mechanisms are the equivalent of running out of the hot room, but the way I see it, when you are brave enough to face who you are there is goodness. Often it is through struggle, and adversity where immense wisdom can be drawn.

“Truth is something outside to be discovered, 
it is something inside to be realized.”

 Sometimes, in tough classes the dialogue is my enemy. I'd rather be anywhere else than class, and every movement is a great struggle. In my best classes, the dialogue is my lover; the other students and heat have melted away, along with my usual whirlwind of daily worries, anxieties, and ever expanding “to do” list, and I'm able to fully surrender to this moving meditation, alone and at one with only myself and the words. Ultimately, the dialogue is my route back into the part of me I've so often neglected: my true self. In life, it is there in the hot room that you can once again face yourself, and be introduced to your soul with stunning clarity when all else melts away. 

Photo source: here

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