Saturday, November 21, 2009


"Don't stick the landing."
- Manorama

Manorama gave this teaching early in her first evening with us. She spoke about how that, as a teacher, she notices students trying to pin down yoga teachings and "put it them their pocket," so to speak, and then move onto the next idea and so on. She said it is important not to stick the landing because what we are dealing with in yoga are big ideas and big concepts and they are multi-faceted with many sides of truth depending on how we look at them on any given day. If we pin the teaching down to only one thing, if we try to stick the landing, we actually miss the point entirely because the point is more about engaging the totality of the teaching with its many contradictions, paradoxes and challenges than it is about narrowing it all down into only one thing.

I mentioned this last night in our Immersion because we spent the evening talking abut the elements, the doshas, the tattvas, the malas and as always, the journey down that particular rabbit hole tends to be full of such big ideas that the mind can go a little crazy. (Like Jason said,"This makes me want to tear my face off!") As always we are up against the most fundamental challenge in talking yoga philosophy and that is using language- which separates, divides and draws distinctions to talk about something that is unified, undivided and without distinctions. We use a relative means (language) to discuss the Absolute. So, well, we are going to miss something and we have to know that from the git-go.

Additionally, yoga philosophy is never really supposed to be separated from the practices that embody it. So when we get int he mental constructs and talk about things we haven't directly experienced it (Like unified Supreme Consciousness) the mind can grow a little desperate to stick the landing. It is just how the mind is.

Life is like that, right? How often do we long for a state when everything is balanced and it is all going right all at the same time? "When I just lose this weight then I will be happy..." or "If I could just be in a relationship then, things would be good..." or "If I got that promotion then I'd feel secure..." or "If my child actually gets to college I will be able to relax..." and so on. But the truth is life is more dynamic than that. Our marriage may be on the rocks but our career is going great. We have gained 10 pounds but we are having a lot of fun. Or, we have lost 10 pounds and we are still terribly lonely. We may hate our job but love our kids. We may be frustrated with our kids but love our yoga practice. And so on. Life is a moving river and will resist our efforts to "stick the landing" at every turn.

We see this all the time in asana also. Some times we emphasize the back bending aspect of forward bends. Some times we emphasize the straight leg aspect. Sometimes we are working to curve the spine and create convexity. Each of these windows into forward bends are right, valid and correct but they might be given a different priority depending on the sequence, the group, the overall aim of the teaching that day. So even in asana, we can will try to stick the landing rather than try to live in the sometimes ambiguous exploration of the asana and learn from the different ways to approach it.
This idea of looking at something from different view points is central to Indian Philosophy. They call philosophy "darshana" which means "a way of seeing." (Again to remember Carlos Pomeda's words from a few entries ago- "If we accept the idea that Reality is to big to be contained in one view, then it opens the door to accept different darshanas as valid.) The idea in Indian philosophy is that philosophy is not speculative. The darshana was a report back from the front, an explanation of Reality from those who had Been There that was accepted as a valid way of seeing. As a student you would adopt that way of seeing until it became your own. The whole thing was to try to see the world the way the sages and saints saw it. It is a faith-based endeavor, not a doubt-based endeavor.
The Immersion group did amazingly well with these concepts, with the ambiguity, with the journey down the rabbit hole and the session was a real pleasure to teach. As always, I know the lecture-based session are hard for the hatha yogi's. For me, 3 hours of asana is no big deal but 3 hours of sitting takes me to my edge. But oh well, we were there, the train was moving so I just rode it out and people really stayed with it in an impressive way. Sometimes that is just the way that it goes.

And on a personal note, I had a very fun day prior to teaching. Gia and I met for a long practice, then I went to the club for a soak and a steam and Anne and I got our nails done. Here is picture from practice. My second attempt was even better but that one did not get captured on film. Oh well. We had a good time.


Aimee said...

Thanks for another great post, Christina! I love this one :)<= Namaste

mandy eubanks said...

Your so generous in your writings. Thanks again for sharing what you've learned. I look forward to learning from Manorama one day. But honestly it seems like the teachings are flowing through you to me and your students quite nicely:)


LisaE said...

Your blog is so inspiring,thought proving,and always seems to be speaking directly to me. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you....

Marcia Tullous said...

Dear Christina~

So true, so true, so true. Life is constant motion and requires so much faith in the process.

Thank you for sharing the teachings with us. I really want to study with Mrs. Manorama too. What a blessing to have you as a teacher. I am grateful to be able to learn from you.

Love and Gratitude,