Getting a handle on yoga

We’ve just got new internal door handles at home! Not big news in the grand scheme, but curiously significant in my small domestic world. We’d just been putting up with the style that existed when we moved in quite a few years ago now. Neither of us liked them one bit, but they were serviceable. They opened and closed doors. Yes, they creaked, and they didn’t feel pleasurable to hold on to — somehow the shape never fitted my hand grip and there was an annoying bobble on the end that strangely used to catch on my wedding ring sometimes. But still, they existed and they did the job, so we tolerated them. 

Now the new door handles are bringing us both a curious, disproportionate amount of pleasure. Not only do they open and close the doors without creaking, but they feel positively nice to the touch. The different shape and texture takes me by surprise over and over again. When will the novelty wear off, I wonder. When will I stop noticing how different this feels?

I’m thinking a lot about the sensations I experience in asana practice at the moment — and struggling not to push the obvious comparison between my joints and the creaking door handles! But really I’m thinking about how I tolerate things, even when they’re not quite right. I somehow fail to be open to the possibility of change. Is change impossible? Or do I not know how? Or is it (and this is the thought I really hate!) that I feel somehow undeserving of making things better for myself?

In my practice I realise I simply expect my body to be uncomfortable a lot of the time, so I ignore it rather than assuming I could (should?) seek greater ease. In class recently, because he was nearby, I asked my teacher for help in Supta Matsyendrasana. One side is always uncomfortable: it pulls on the SI and the shoulder never finds a good place. He helped as best he could and could clearly see something going on in these uncomfortable areas. But as he tried to move me into a place of greater ease I was aware that I was patiently tolerating this process too despite having asked for help: I was holding my breath slightly, suspending time until this too would be over. I suppose my teacher might have sensed this too, since he asked me for some verbal feedback and told me to breathe to soften the area where he was moving me.

“The shoulder doesn’t feel right,” I told him. “But it’s ok it doesn’t hurt, it’s just a bit sore.” I gave him permission not to (be able to) help. He chuckled lightly. “I’m not suprised.” But then he was serious: “But we don’t want you to feel sore.” Oh! Really?! Is it legitimate to seek such ease that these kinds of niggles disappear? In this kind of reclining, unwinding posture? In all postures? I try not to strain into poses and I never want to be that grunting person in class, but ‘ease’ seems more an ideal, a lofty philosophical concept more than an actual aim. It’s on a level with samadhi: maybe it’ll spontaneously arise but it’s not something I really think I can aspire to.

Now I begin to wonder at the possibilities… 

So forget about the creaky door handle metaphor. Instead: yoga is a series of thresholds where doorways open and provide a constantly changing horizon. 

Who knows where it leads.

One thought on “Getting a handle on yoga

  1. Change is incremental, I think, and most often imperceptible from our own point of view because of this snail’s pace. Ease is different from easy, I think. To me it conjures up the idea that there is space in the pose and between my thoughts. There can be a focused effort, and ease, simultaneously. “Space is the architecture of compassion.” (Freeman)

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