2013 was the year I watched my father die slowly and painfully. I watched as his limbs refused his commands, ignoring 70 years of habit. His tongue laid in his mouth, useless and resigned. His eyes frantically searched for reason and logic; eventually resting, finding neither. What had his limbs/organs/nervous system experienced that they could betray him with such vengeance? He was angry and unmanageable on good days. I kept hoping/expecting a revelation or surrender where kindness would emerge but that didn’t happen – until the very end. Then forgiveness, sorrow and regret filled everything, everywhere. It was a tsunami that washed away ancestral heads and hearts. He doesn’t live here anymore. I do, and the world is a different place.
Much of the world I occupy is spent in a Mysore yoga room, practicing and teaching. Every year I travel to the city of Mysore itself. The spaces between are filled with resting and rebalance. For a few hours every morning I move through a room filled with bodies moving to their own beat and breath. As I move, I hear sounds of life and death. Life; the top of the inhale/laughter/possibility/expansion. Death; base of the exhale/doubt/fear/contraction. I often imagine moving through the room without vision to guide me. What do I hear? What does it feel like? What is happening? As I listen I better understand the mental and psychological experiences of those around me.
As human beings, we tend to maintain a strong, almost desperate clutch on our habits and reality. I observe this daily in students, and in my own personal practice. We hold on to our ideas, preferences and opinions in varying forms: ‘I want more/less’, ‘I want/don’t want’, ‘I won’t/can’t’, ‘Its too easy/hard’, etc. Eventually, through elegance and bravery, breath and bandha we’re able to safely move through or relax back to transcend these obstacles and meet potential. Death of the limiting ideas of who we are and what we’re capable of. And life, the realization that we are beyond ALL of that. Life begins again, fresh and new but with a more spacious and potent understanding of who we are.
Guruji said ‘Ashtanga Yoga is breathing practice, the rest is just bending.’
Guruji said ‘Ashtanga Yoga is breathing practice, the rest is just bending.’ Sri K Pattabhi Jois was deadly practical in presenting this method to us. All is revealed in the breath.
2013 was the year I married a great man. I wore soft yellow and he wore green chucks. We were at our most joyful/playful. It was a day of deep love, mutual respect and support. Everything was hyper-alive. And the rhythms of life and death continue.