"Does anyone know why we always roll onto the right side before coming up to sit?" I asked after instructing the class to do exactly that.
"Bend your knees, roll over onto your ride side and use your arms to come up to sit." I've given this exact instruction thousands of times, literally thousands of times. That means every student in the room has heard me say it--I don't know how many times but a lot. Like, a lot of times.
"So, why the right side and never the left? Anyone?" I repeated, which is what I do when everyone in the room is pretending like I'm asking a rhetorical question that doesn't actually require an answer.
"Something about the heart. It's because the heart is on the left side, I think," one woman replied.
"It's because of digestion," said another.
"Now think about that," I said. "In a practice in which we do handstands, and forearm stands, and hot sweaty sun salutations, does it make sense that rolling from one's back onto one's left side would be overly strenuous for the heart?"
Okay, actually I'm making myself out to sound nicer than I really am. What I actually said was, "rubbish." It was okay, though, because then I qualified it by saying, "nonsense," which is much softer, right?
Shortly after that, I took a class in which the teacher made a reference to the sacred shapes that we create with our bodies in hatha yoga, and here I am, a week later, still thinking about it because, well, it's the kind of thing I think about, I guess.
Are the asanas (yoga positions) sacred shapes? If so, then who says so and upon what authority?
Sacred shapes: it sounds so precisely like the kind of thing a yoga teacher might say because she thinks it's what she's supposed to say, which is why it's exactly the kind of thing that would normally make me roll my eyes. "Tell them to lift their leg muscles up, instead of to lift up energy," I tell the new teachers in my teacher training. "Nobody is going to know what lifting energy means. I don't even know what that means. Just say it like a normal person. Don't try to sound like a yoga teacher." Yoga prattle peeves me.
Seriously, I hate that shit.
Now, the thing is--when this particular teacher spoke of sacred shapes it didn't rankle, probably because it sounded sincere, like something she really thought, and had thought about, as opposed to trying to say something she thought sounded yogic. I actually found it very disarming, and sweet. Things said with the intention of sounding yogic, on the otherhand, are meaningless as far as I'm concerned. It's like being yogic is a license to just say anything, and it needn't make an ounce of sense.
Is there any reason that putting your foot behind your head would make you more a spiritual person, or a nicer one? Of course not. That would be a silly thing to think. As Emma said, don't confuse physical prowess with decency. If you're an asshole who can put your foot behind your head, that just makes you an asshole with your foot behind your head.
(...and still, I know it to be true that when I move my body with my breath, something happens. I know, too, that this is a truth that's bigger than just me. I've seen it be true in enough instances to know.)
I am way off topic here. Lemme try and get back on track.
I actually agree that asanas are sacred shapes. On whose authority do I base my opinion?
My own. Ultimately, it's my own.
Asana is sacred, to me, because I say it is. I reached that conclusion a long time ago but I continue to regularly hold that decision up, and examine it, which gives me the opportunity to affirm that conclusion again, and again. The meaning behind asana, or anything else, isn't out there somewhere and because it's not, it's mine to make. There's no such thing as absolute meaning. To make something meaningful, we must mark it as sacred. Something in us prompts us to say, "this one isn't like the others. This one is special."
Meaning is mine to make, and yours.
It's why my teacher insists, "your life has no point, no meaning and no purpose." If any of those things were imposed upon you then you couldn't be free to step into the process of creating points and purposes of your own.
I approach my practice as though it's sacred. I carry that intention with every breath, on every breath, and voila--I have an experience of the sacred. Do it enough and it becomes ritual. Ritual works. The more it's repeated, the more profoundly it works.
As Anusara yogis we ascribe meaning to action. It's what we do. The meaning we assign makes the practice more, well--meaningful. Putting your foot behind your head doesn't necessarily make you a nicer person but it could if every action on your mat is infused with inner meaning.
I honestly believe that sharing my love for these teachings with others has made me a nicer person. Not that I'm staggeringly kind, or anything. It's just that there was so much room for improvement that a little yoga has gone a long way.
That said, if you come to my class wanting to sweat a little, and to stretch your hamstrings, then that's exactly what you're going to get and I have no problem with it. You are entirely welcome. I can only offer what I offer, and you're free to accept or refuse it. Your meaning belongs to you, as mine belongs to me. It's just that it's so much better when there's shared meaning, which is why I love my students so much, and why they love each other, too.
The sacred might be a ritual, a practice, an asana, an object, a relationship with someone you love...It's just an everyday thing, exactly like all the others, but because you treat it as sacred, it's also unlike any other, too. If you forget to treat what's sacred to you as though it matters, it won't be long before its magic is gone.
As my teacher put it: "A light is a light but you don't light your cigarette off the altar candle. That one's different." And you don't, right, even though it's only different because we mark it as such? Otherwise, it's just another candle like any other. It's why we take our shoes off before we step into the studio. Because out there is different from in here.
Perhaps the fox said it best to the little prince:
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince...
cannot play with you," the fox
said. "I am not tamed."
Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
"What does that
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
Oh, one more thing. We turn to the right after Savasana because we ascribe this meaning to it.