Casting all cares to the wind, I went to a yoga class tonight. It may well have been my first class in nearly 2 years (apart from Glenn's intensive a few weeks ago).
This was a late class, 7.30-9.00pm at the Iyengar studio where Glenn's workshop was held.
I've been coming to this studio on and off for 14 years. It is my yoga home.
Darrin was my first real teacher back then and I remember falling in love with him in that very first class 14 years ago. Darrin owns and runs the studio now and he teaches the late Wednesday evening level 3 class.
As is traditional at this studio, each week has a focus - in one week all the teachers will focus on standing poses, the next week the classes will all focus on backbends, another week inversions etc. From memory, I think they cycle through maybe 5 or 6 themes.
This week must have been pranayama week.
The class was built around restorative poses, most of them either over or through a chair, some with a bolster. The pranayama focus was lightly sprinkled throughout the restorative poses - a slight intention in some of them to 1) gently contract muscles in the abdomen, perineum and anal canal following an inhalation, then 2) exhale fully while holding the light bandha and then 3) consciously inhale into the chest before releasing the contraction. After this, a few normal breaths.
Salamba Sarvangasana through a chair had a stimulating healing effect on my lumbar. The body is not vertical in this pose but resting at an angle, so gravity flows through the joints with a different effect than in the fully vertical pose. Gravity is a strong force, and when the body is inverted, all the liquids in the body have the downward pressure on their flow reversed.
I love this feeling. Blood flows back to the heart easily, pressure on the pelvic and abdominal organs is released, the brain is gently flooded with new life, spinal joints are elongated and stretched, cellular fluids are abruptly shaken out of their usual pathways... This unusual change of physical and physiological direction also affects our energy flow and resonates through to the mind, turning our world literally upside down, suspending us in space and interrupting our routine habits.
The tension of clinging onto what is known and safe dissolves away.
Especially therapeutic for my body is the pressure of the chair seat up into my sacrum and out into my hip joints. The back of my pelvis is heavily grounded on the chair as its receiving all the weight of my inverted legs. Consequently my lumbar gets a deep tissue massage and acupressure relief from the humble, unassuming chair seat and my hip joints are splayed open and receptive to the passive stretch.
Just before Savasana we did some Viloma pranayama laying with a blanket underneath the shoulderblades.
Overall, the class felt like a long, luxurious and relaxing warm bath. To be honest, not much use to my yoga practice, except for the momentary effects of Salamba Sarvangasana.
But attending the class was worthwhile just to experience Darrin's soft, calm and caring voice stroking my soul through the poses, even more for the brief conversation we had after the class and a phone conversation later which has finally, after all these years, connected us on a new level.
And now that I've overcome my fear and resistance to doing a 'regular' yoga class (fear of causing further injury to my lumbar, and resistance to following another person's yoga sequence) I'm looking forward to doing a more challenging 'not pranayama' class next Wednesday.
There were many moments at work in the office this week when I felt the warm breeze of the weekend tent wash over my skin.
The freedom and space of camping by the dunes close to the ocean, has coalesced to form a vividly alive memory to draw on. My images of last weekend are visual and deeply sensual.
In an instant I can transport myself back in time to be in that tent, to rekindle the wildness of my soul's longing, to flood my aura with the warm air, the sea breeze, to dissolve my elevated spirit into nature and inhale its mysteries. I can be here in the city, in my home, in the office, on the street, and at the same time be out there in my wild earthy freedom. I can invoke a past experience into the present reality, experiencing two dimensions simultaneously.
This passionate need to go off camping alone regularly, to go wandering (through hollow lands and hilly lands?) is one I will listen to. Once a month is looking realistic. Upon that delicacy, I hook my soul.
Today is Friday. I wake up crying and can't go in to work. Its 12 o'clock and emotion is still raw, tears of loss and sadness continue to flow. This doesn't happen often - I suspect the busy work week has left my bleeding heart unattended - it needs periods of quiet time to find gentle rest in its sadness, for emotion to seep out and then be reabsorbed. Last night, my son who has a permanently raw heart from the tragic death of three friends, cut deep into my wounds with his simple honesty. My heart has been bleeding this morning.
The intensity and depth that characterises my life now is how I want to always be in this world, no matter how raw or vulnerable or ecstatic I feel. Love and death split us open. We bleed, but that blood is what connects us to the powerful life forces of nature and the universe and the Source of it all.