The silence of yoga

I was introduced to the concept of mauna this week. Silence, the silence that underlies everything, the real essence and heart of things. Not just an absence of noise, but something more profound. Something essentially beyond description. I wonder: is the practice of yoga just about learning to get comfortable with this quality of silence, the essential loneliness of existence? And perhaps then coming to realise that there is a sound even within the most profound silence (the praṇava) just as there is some sense of union or communion that exists even within the deepest sense of aloneness?

Bear with me, I’m just at the tip of any understanding of this! But I quite liked having a new word and it’s been helping me play with opposites in my practice. Silence and sound, movement and stillness, inhale and exhale, strength and softness.

But mostly I’ve been playing with the twin qualities of humility and surrender. I’m seeking a place where I give up fighting and second-guessing and just allow things to be as they are. In āsana practice I try to follow the breath and feel my alignment from the inside out, settle into depth and length because I’m just drawn there, not because my ego says that’s where I should be or could be… And meditation practice has been mostly with mantras, exploring how sounds (like āsanas) envelope me and take their own form, before the syllables drop away and there is simple a vibrational quality hanging in the air.

Both practices lead me to some peaceful still state — if I can only let them, surrendering into movement or into sounds. Each practice becomes an offering of what I have in my heart, if I can let go of past narratives, present desires, future worries and simply allow things to be and to unfold as they will.

These are the ideas that come up in my yoga homework this month. My teacher has asked me to explore my reluctant attitude to change and what is behind it. I’m reluctant to think about that (ah, the irony!), instead my mind has wandered away, tantalising me with these notions about how it might be if only I could embrace change and flow with it.

Somehow mauna might be the destination and Yoga the pathway.

Or is it the other way around?

For now there’s only practice. A coarse attempt, stumbling in the dark. I try to make it the best I can offer — and right now I am taking a lot of joy from that. Such elevated ideals might seem far way from my clumsy hopping or off-key chanting, but I know somehow they’re part of the same picture. It’s the weird, ineffable magic of yoga.

I bow down.

om namo namaḥ

 

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