It is Friday morning. After my yoga marathon last night I cam home ate a bite and Kelly and I went to Cheatem Street Warehouse to hear one of our favorite local bands, Texas Renegade. So even though I only sipped on water, we got home late, smelling like ashtrays and it was way past my bedtime by the time I showered and got to bed. So I am off to a bit of a late start this morning but enjoying a leisurely approach to my "day off" with a cup of fabulous green tea from our favorite tea importers The Swan Sisters.
(As side note, when Kelly and I owned a coffee shop we served these teas there. They are really some of the finest teas in China, imported by these really awesome, beautiful young women, the Swanson sisters-aka The Swan Sisters. You can visit our old coffee shop at http://www.prescottcoffeeroasters.com/ and even buy tea there!
Last week Dr. Phillips told me about a line in one of the early Upanishads that describes a being, about the size of the thumb, located in the cave of the heart that is always doing puja, or worship. I asked him to send me the verse and he sent me some notes from his current book project.
"At the very end of the "Story'' , we find an image which recurs throughout Vedanta which is iconized in the chakric psychology of Tantra as the individual soul: "Thumbsize'' seated in a "secret cave'' (another Upanishadic symbol) located behind the heart chakra there is a conscious being who survives death. The inner self is a conscious being , thumbsize, forever dwelling in the heart of creatures. It is to be extracted from the body patiently, with diligence, like the cane shaft from the reed. The bright, the immortal, it should be known. The bright, the immortal, it should be known.
From the spiritual autobiography of the Siddha yogin, Swami Muktananda (1908) "I would have a new movement in the heart, in which an egg-shaped ball of radiance would come into view. This is the vision of the radiant, thumb-sized being, who is described as follows in the Katha Upanishad. The inner soul always dwells in the heart of all men as a thumb-sized being.''
In Anusara Yoga, John Friend describes an Optimal Blueprint. From the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training manual: "This Optimal Blueprint is the master design for the body's optimal alignment and health. It represents the ideal spatial pattern of the body in any position. For every possible position that the energetic and physical bodies can assume, there is a specific alignment where circulation of vital energy (prana), blood, and other internal fluids have an optimally healthy flow...When the outer body is aligned with the Optimal Blueprint, the body senses this. The connective tissue becomes stronger, more resilient, and increases in flexibility while the internal circulation, including prana, increases."
The image of the thumbsize being in the heart who is always doing puja is like the Optimal Blueprint in terms of our life of prayer and devotion. When we practice yoga, when we endeavor to fuse the practice of asana with the language of the heart and the celebration of the spirit, we are simply aligning with a state of worship that is already within us. Being devotional, bringing a sense of prayer to these forms isn't about adopting a holier-than-thou affect or about adding anything extraneous to the practice, it is about aligning ourselves with something that already exists within us and consciously extracting this essential being, like the cane from the reed and like the sweetness from the cane.
So really, even in these earlier texts of the Upanishads we see the seed of Tantra planted. We see the seeds of the philosophy that later comes along and instructs practitioners that all of life is a manifestation of the Divine and to recognize all situations as places to encounter this Divinity. Essentially the tantrika, would seek to align themselves with this inner puja, this inner worship and Remembrance, and weave that Recognition consciously into all aspects of life.
So I worked with this theme in my classes this week. I was travelling home on Monday so our Monday night classes were cancelled in San Marcos. The Tuesday 4:30 flow class was a foray into some backbending after a strong standing pose sequence. That class is starting to have some regular attendance but is always a great chance for me to meet new folks.
The Tuesday 6:00 advanced class continues to be such a fun class with people coming regularly and with a sense of adventure. We kept with the theme and with the backbends this week. The back story about Tuesday night's class: A few weeks ago one of my occasional visitors from Ashtanga Vinyasa Land asked for some help learning how to stand up from urdhva danurasana. I said, "let's do it in two weeks," which was Tuesday night. Even though he and his friend were not there, I went ahead with the plan. Lots of hard work, laughter and partner assisting later we were planting the seeds of how to come up and how to keep the heart leading the way, no matter what is happening!
The San Marcos School of Yoga was back in action on Wednesay night with the ever-dynamic levels 1&2 class, which is beginning to feel more like a level 3 class, if you know what I mean. We worked on standing poses, particularly parivritta trikonasana and a supported version of setu bandha on blocks. The beginning class finally filled out and even ended with an impromptu discussion of Tantric philosophy, which was fun.
Thursday nights' yoga marathon began with the 4:30 Advanced class enjoying (?) a rousing foray into padmasana and simhasana, much of which was inspired by one of Geeta's classes from the summer. We also worked on dropping over from sarvangasana to setubandhasana, so that was fun. The 6:00 class worked on shoulder principles, standing poses and urdhva danurasana. It was great to see so many people new to my classes, just get on board with the instructions and deepen their poses. Quite excellent work, sense of humor and studentship in that class. And the 7:30 class went to new lengths to put new lengths in their hamstrings with lots of urdhva prasarita eka padasana at the wall and other crowd-pleasing hamstring stretches and hip openers.
Bravo to both Anne and Tabatha for TRIPLE DIPPING on Thursday night. I hope you ladies can still walk today! Thanks to everyone who came to class this week. Hopefully, the repetition of alignment principles and the ongoing reminders to return to the place of prayer within us will help each one of us to glimpse our truest nature throughout our seemingly mundane endeavors.
Enjoy the ride!