Asana practice as a metaphor for life, as you like it

On Friday night, Tim Miller laid upon a group of Ashtangis here in Los Angeles the physics and metaphysics of asana.

It was my second time hearing this talk; Tim did it before at a fundraiser for the Sean O’Shea Foundation.

As always, though, it was a bit different, perhaps as much due to the flow of the crowd as any design. A particular idea comes up, Tim relates it to a particular sutra and we’re headed in a different direction.

I often take copious notes at these talks. On Friday, I wanted to try just listening — and the experience was definitely different. I find if I’m busy taking notes, I can’t reflect as well on what’s being said. I’m happy to report that after listening to Tim talk a few handful of times now, it’s sunk in. I know the difference between purusha and prakriti. I know which direction prana flows (that’s a trick). I know the meaning of the symbols of Shiva’s dance.

I’m a bit less intimidated by our Yatra to India, as a result — although I’m sure I’ll be a lost little kid all over.

Kids came up at one point during Tim’s talk, in a way I didn’t remember hearing before. He was talking about the asana practice, and I’ll paraphrase here:

The practice is a metaphor for life. There is the infant enthusiasm of the Suryanamaskaras. Then there is the troubled adolescence of the standing poses. You reach the relative stability and steadiness of the seated poses. Then there is the decline and struggle of the closing poses. Finally, you’re dead.

Tim further suggested — and this I’d heard before — that we use the skills gained during asana practice to have better skills in life: calmness, self-reflection, discrimination, etc.

I mentioned this to Bobbie, and she said: “Oh, Tim’s going all Shakespearean.” Indeed:


All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

That’s from As You Like It. Whether I like it, I’m off shortly for Led Primary, more talking and the Asana Doctor today.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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