Aletia Artemis offers a dedicationto yoga.
Formany years, yoga has been in my life. Sometimes, ithas been a journey of discovery. Sometimes, it has beena mission. And sometimes, it has been something I yearnedfor but wasn't able to incorporate into my everydaylife. Now, suddenly, it has re-become a daily practice.The ritual of Astanga mornings has begun again andI've tried to figure out why. What is it about the magicof yoga that captures our hearts, our imagination andour corporeal frame? When I think back over my personaljourney and the beauty of being in yoga, I remembermore than the asanas. It is not just breath and posturesand meditation, but also the teachers, the rooms andthe other students who have filled those rooms.
If I had to find a name for the experience I wouldcall it an "ambient groove". It's a giddycombination that fills the senses and leaves one feelingwhole. If we're lucky, we find ourselves in the rightrooms at the right time with the right teacher and kindredspirits alongside...
It's 5:30 in the morning when I duck back into thebedroom to sneak a kiss onto my slumbering partner'sforehead. His breathing is deep and steady and the doonais wrapped around him like a giant cocoon. I feel atugging desire to slip back into that nest of warmthand snuggle into a blissful sleep. Yet, I turn and stepoutside into the chill and damp of pre-dawn darkness.As I head west, I crest a rise and see the moon hanging,enormous, golden and still. It is such an awesome sightthat I almost cry out with astonishment and delight...Ialways wonder who else is watching at this time, whereelse are they going and I feel thankful that yoga canspur me from my dream-filled bed.
Arriving at the inner city yoga studio, I open thedoor to be greeted by the spiced scent of burning incenseand the gentle warmth of a "hot" yoga room.I know I'm not the first today. The quiet rhythmic movements,though barely audible, are perceptible, are felt. MyUgg boots get added to the collection of shoes in thefoyer. Stepping through the curtains reveals a cavernousspace. Once a chapel, the lofty wood lined ceilingsand arches provide the perfect complement to the senseof serenity and richness yoga can bring. Scattered inthe belly of the room are yoga mats rafting yoga students.Initially, the pattern of student dispersion seems haphazard,because we instinctively head towards "our"spot on the floor. It's funny that "ownership ofspace" that comes with regular practice.
It's not something that is discussed. It's not somethingthat is organised. It's not even something that hasbeen allocated by any kind of sequential hierarchy.A rare thing today -- the privilege of allowing theuniverse to call, to sort and to arrange. It's a bitlike Harry Potter's sorting hat really. You know yourselfwhere you belong and, even if you resist at first, yousoon find that you're drawn there, perhaps by habitand familiarity. So, the neat lines of students eventuallyemerge from the chaos. A person's absence stands outlike a tooth missing in a row of pearly whites. If themost regular student is away , their space feels somehowlarger, more portentous in its vacuum. More evidencethat our energetic footprint is a very real and livingthing. Occasionally, someone new will arrive on thefloor or, for reasons known only to themselves, someonewill effect a change. Again, no discussion, no organisation,no sequence -- they just move. And while this disturbanceto the order may be confronting to some who have reacheda comfort zone in their space, the reshuffle occursand integrates and assimilates. If only the world beyondcould be so mercurial. As I look around, the practiceitself offers a mimesis of the spatial relations. Allare intently focused on their own ritual and yet allare united by their ritual. Some students are sittingquietly gently opening the mind, some are stretchingand easing the remnants of sleep from their limbs andthe "newies" are sitting in the middle oftheir mats gazing around themselves, trying to appearinconspicuous while staying alert for any sign of whatthey should be doing.
Our teacher is busy ringing bells in the corners ofthe room. Eventually, he moves to the front of the roomand announces that we will come together to chant. Now,chanting is a funny thing. I think that we Aussies arewilling to scream, "Oi! Oi! Oi!" at any givensporting event, but to chant with solemnity and earnestnessis simply uncomfortable. That being said, I think thatchanting is essential to the creation of ambience. Itcalls up our soul's best intentions and focuses us towardsthe unifying aspects of the practice. Yet, as we followthe teacher's sure voice with our echoing chorus, thereply seems hesitant, as if the merest doubt could makeit fizzle out with a gurgling warble. I remember timesat retreats where the replies were sung out true andstrong by a cosmopolitan gathering of nations. It isthis kind of courageous surrender to the song that affordsus the expansion and immersion into the fullness ofyoga. With time, I know our class will grow robust withthe chant and our spirits will souse the song.
Then, we practise. Every morning is different. Somedays are energised and powerful, others are meditativeand intrinsically bound to the breath. And there arethose days where everything feels like a struggle andsimply being there is an achievement in itself. On thosedays of struggle, I try to remember to give praise forthe efforts and appreciate lovingly that I have broughtthe body to the practice. Punishing the mind does notlift me up. Allowing the body to assume the memoriesof days when I am energised does.
On the powerful days, I embrace my teacher's adjustmentszealously and push the limitations of the body. Butthe days that are most fulfilling are the ones wherethe meditation of the sequence flows. I feel myselfexpanding and the room becomes a universe. The boundariesof self are disintegrated by the rhythm of breath bringingus closer to a collective consciousness. On these days,my teacher seems like a benevolent conductor, one whosetuning presence creates harmony and symbiosis.
When finally, Savasana (lying in rest) arrives, itis hard not to imagine that we are overcome by someMoksa or liberation. Simply arriving here gives riseto an undefinable joy! I know that many of us joke thatSavasana is the reason we do yoga, and in part I knowthat it's true. But Savasana can only be what it isbecause of the journey it takes us to get there. Andit is here that I believe we can truly create our owntruth. It is here that the practice is absorbed intothe mind and the teachings of the journey make themselvesmanifest. We understand our purpose in the glow of ourconscious relaxation, the soul illuminated.
As I rise to leave, the teacher is in animated conversationwith some students, laughing and gesticulating. We allget it. And I'm reminded of so many of these gatheringsof students sitting with their guru....in Perth, inRishikesh, in Mysore...and they are all one. One guru,with many faces and a single heart. We may seek a guruand yet it strikes me that gurus are like the limbson the tree of yoga.
The yoga trunk is the binding of all yogas and thesearch for truth. The limbs represent the schools ofyoga and the many incarnations of disciplines. The leavesspringing from the limbs are the students supportedand nourished in their growth by the limbs. And theblossoms are the knowledge and understanding that areborn in brilliance and taken by the wind into the ether.
Each day, I feel the fragility of my existence onthe tree strengthened.
Strengthened by the memories of teachers, spaces andpeers of the past.
Strengthened by the presence of my guru, this wonderfulroom and the smiles of the students. And while thereare still days when I don't make it, I know there isa void where my mat should be and I know that when Iam next there the experience will fill my soul and blossomswill sprout from my toes.