Yoga expands the more I practice. It throws opens new horizons to me all the time. Yet the whole yoga thing still makes me feel uncomfortable and sometimes doesn’t settle easily around who I thought I was (or who I used to be). So I find myself examining all new aspects of it to be sure I’m not just jumping on some fashionable bandwagon… or getting insidiously brainwashed.
Now I’ve gone and ordered myself some mala beads. The very notion of it makes me roll my eyes! Whatever next? An OM tattoo? But I’m not doing this to look cool or more yogic. As if! Rather, I’ve started exploring mantras recently and it’ll be interesting to see how using mala beads for tracking repetitions is helpful… or not. At the least having them as a physical object will remind me to keep open to this aspect of practice.
I finally got round to learning the gayatri mantra this week. It trips off the tongue quite readily now and feels pretty nice and natural. Next steps — to find a translation I connect with, to understand the literal meaning, to practice writing it in Devanagari. All this is great stuff and appeals to my intellectual nerd side and will be an interesting way of exploring my Sanskrit.
But this plan felt a bit disassociated from my yoga practice. A bit head, rather than heart. And so it was until class this morning.
Class was a two hour exercise in patience: to be gentle with muscles that felt sore and unyielding and to keep mental focus on moving into open shapes when my inclination at the moment is to close up. It was an interplay of resistance and surrender, of withdrawing and opening, of flowing rather than freezing. Kind of unpleasant. But kind of compelling to observe and breathe through. Whenever my body felt like closing in on itself I offered a silent OM feeling it draw my body into a longer line, a broader shape, creating openness and light where there had been dull weight.
At the time it felt like cr*p yoga, but the fact that I could observe in this way probably made it pretty ‘good’ yoga! Whatever, by the time class was closing into śavāsana I was a a bit frayed. What were these emotions? Relief in large part (finally it’s over!), but also all the old scars threatening to come unpicked and spill their emotional guts out for everyone to see.
How to be steady amidst this turmoil, to breath into it but not be suffocated by it? My lips just found the gayatri mantra, whispering to myself over and over. And my heart stopped racing, my breathing calmed, until I was sitting with my body feeling open and tranquil. The storm passed overhead. Of course I had found the gayatri mantra because I had been looking at it this week, but its message was very apt in this moment of my practice: seeking support in finding a way out of suffering, with the suggestion of moving from intellect to inner wisdom.
Finally the music towards the end of class contained some lines from the Upanishads that I’ve also been considering recently. They also are a prayer for transformation:
asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya
I’d better stick with the Sanskrit lessons then! But it’s nice to find that the intellectual pursuit of knowledge comes together naturally sometimes with what the heart and soul needs. Good vibrations indeed.
If you have a fave Gayatri translation, do please share in the comments. Thank you!