Chances are, you know where this is going.
Tim Miller’s Tuesdays with Timji post this week focuses on Tuesday’s big astrological event: the Vernal Equinox. His post is full of balances and duality. Such as:
The primary goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance the opposing yet complimentary forces of Nature (Prakrtti) that are continuously acting upon us—expansion and contraction, extension and flexion, activity and passivity, etc. Patanjali says in Sutra II.46—“Sthira sukham asanam”– the posture is both stable and at ease. The following sutra continues in this same vein: II.47—“Prayatna saitilyam ananta samapattibhyam”– Through the balancing of effort and surrender in asana, one becomes absorbed in the infinite. To sum it up he says, II.48—“Tatah dvandva anabhigatah”—Then one is no longer disturbed by duality.
He goes on to provide an extensive list of some of the dualities we all encounter. You probably could conceive a list of your own, tailored to your experiences of those complimentary forces.
My favorite line from the post is this: “Amidst all the changing forms of the asanas, which could be called the dance of Prakrtti, what we are trying to do is connect to the thing within us that doesn’t change, the infinite self, or Purusha, the unconditioned awareness, which is our essential self.”
Given that today, and on Tuesday, I couldn’t do any asanas — my most pressing duality could be summed up as “can look left, can’t look right” — I’ll admit that reading through Tim’s post, and thinking about everyone I know who practiced 108 Sun Salutes for the Equinox, is a bit of its own struggle. But then I get to this:
Patanjali suggests that through our asana practice (we could think of all the asanas as metaphors for the different situations we encounter in life) we can begin to find the oneness that lies beneath the twoness, to discover that what we are looking for is the thing that’s doing the looking. As we begin to identify with the very source of consciousness within us it gives us a more balanced and detached perspective from which to observe the daily dance of duality.
What, exactly, am I struggling with? It isn’t Tim’s words or others’ practice. It’s my own ego, of course. “Oh, a few days off. You’ll put on a few pounds. You’ll stiffen up. Maybe this will be the moment your momentum escapes you.” But I’m at least partially prepped for that, right? Is this struggle any more difficult than trying to relax into a deeper Supta Kurmasana? No. (There are other struggles out there that are, which is why we have to keep practicing.)
So instead, what does the practice today become? Pranayama? Some chanting from some lines Eddie Stern has sent us? Why not?
What strikes me, finally, is that in some ways the asana practice is too easy. You can finish up a strong practice, feeling like you really nailed it. But then, does that mean you’re done for the day? Is that strong, even perfect, asana practice really the goal? What are you forgetting about, which half of a duality are you leaving aside, in those moments of intense physical struggle, when the focus is all on that physical struggle?
Yes, I guess I’m just asking the fundamental “what makes a yogi” question. Sadly, this realization hasn’t miraculously loosened up my neck.
Posted by Steve