Best offering

Class started in full praṇām. Prostrate, arms outstretched, palms turned upward. The ultimate giving pose. Deeply humbling, stretched out on the floor, no defense. It’s impossible to transition easily out of this posture. But then this pose is not about moving on: it’s about being committed here. It’s not about the look of it, and the pose doesn’t care about my feelings of vulnerability. The pose demands that I give up all of those worries, give up everything and make my best offering.

Earlier in the week I’d been listening to one of my favourite carols – In the Bleak Midwinter. The choir were unseen in the vestibule, their words coming to us through the semi-darkness. And the final verse that I wondered at even as a child:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

This week has been a bit of a musical feast in fact. I’ve been indulging myself, giving myself up to sounds, allowing myself to near drown in this immersion. But I don’t drown, I float. I rise above and for some brief period I allow myself to be moved, without any need to determine the direction. I’m in good hands, musically. First there was this intimate concert of Christmas music in a little chapel — lit by candles, so cold the breath from the choir came out steamy. I sat crossed-legged on my pew to keep my feet warm under me. Then a grand concert in a fancy building, the second part of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio; hundreds of faces turned intently to the music. Then a small kirtan with one of my teachers, him offering the lead, us gathered at his feet, joining together in response.

Through all this, I wonder: what is my best offering? What do I have to give and what do I let go? And how between those two acts do I remain myself? Or is that not part of the yoga deal?

What is my best offering? I had time to feel some answer at least in that deep praṇām at the start of class. Honesty, gratitude, an embrace of my vulnerability and my not-knowingness, and my courage to come back each time to ask the big questions — to lay myself open (literally) to all that might be. Praṇām might be hard to transition out of physically, but on a different level it’s the posture from which everything might begin, it’s the embodiment of an attitude from which all things become possible. When you’re full length on the floor, the only way out is up.

I had been late for this class, too tired to plan travel time properly, and with half my mind unresolved to practise yoga in company that day. I slid in (literally – it was icy on the streets!) at the very last minute. Beyond the last minute even, but my teacher was patiently waiting, the room subtly reorganised itself to make space for me, and we began. My breath eventually settled from the rush towards class, my body resolved itself into this full praṇām, and I made my best offering. And I realised in those moments of prostration that offering and receiving are two sides of the same thing, it depends on your perspective. I was also receiving — guidance, company, acceptance, support… So much offered if I could bring myself there, to be fully in this attitude of respect and openness.

Deep praṇām.

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