Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Exquisite Bondage

I am not bound to win,
I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed
but I abound to lie up to the Light I have.
-Abraham Lincoln

Yoga is not a path of Freedom.
Yoga is a path of Exquisite Bondage.
-Douglas Brooks

So Maggie posted the Abraham Lincoln quote up on her Facebook update the other day and I loved it. In fact, it reminded me of the other quopte from Professor Douglas Brooks.So I got to wondering...what does the word bondage mean and so I looked it up.

From www. your dictionary.com, which by the way is a resource that EVERY Anusara Yoga or aspiring Anusara Yoga teacher should, in my opinion, know about.

bond·age (bändij)

noun

1. serfdom or slavery

2. subjection to some force, compulsion, or influence; specif., physical restraint as a sadomasochistic technique

3.villeinage


Okay at first glance the definition does not actually look so promising in terms of a class theme. (Or it looks very promising to some, but in a way I want to encourage...) But it gets interesting down in the etymology of the word...

Etymology: ME <>bondagium <>bonda <>bonde, orig. prp. of bua, to prepare, inhabit, akin to Ger bauen, to build <>bheu-, to grow, develop > be, Sans bhū-, earth, Gr phyein, to grow

Think about this- you get all the way to a Sanskrit word that means earth and Greek word that means to grow. So we can look at those choices that bind us, those choices in which we are rooted, as those circumstances that create a means through which we can grow and develop ourselves and in the case of the Lincoln quote, our Light.


So we worked with actions that bind us to our Light to create an corresponding freedom primarily working with setting the foundation (binding ourselves to the earth) and stabilizing our shins to open (free) our hips. We took a slow, deliberate journey that went something like this:
  • AMV
  • AMS
  • uttanasana
  • surya namaskar variation
  • deep lunges forearms down
  • deep lunge arms extended to stretch the psoas
  • uttasasana
  • baddha konasana variations with blocks
  • janu sirsasana variation with block
  • revolved lunge
  • supta padangusthasana 2
  • ardha padmasana
  • ardha baddha padmotasana
  • uttanasana
  • ardha matsyendrasana 2
  • baddha ardha padmasana into simhasana 2 variation
  • full padmasana into simhasana 2
  • uttasana
  • AMS
  • AMV
  • savasana

Although to be honest, it was only the briefest nod to savasana this morning.

Anyway, as esoteric as some of this can sound, the very practical application is, hopefully apparent. Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to do something- like practice asana, go to class, eat well, stay monogamous, keep to your budget, etc. when you give yourself a little wiggle room compared to on those days when you are fully committed to the optimal choice?

The difference we feel is because that commitment is a binding, and when we are truly bound to our commitments, many times the "Should I?, Should I not?, I do not really want to but I think it would be good for me but happy hour would be so much more fun, _____________________ (fill in any of your weaseling-out-of-what-you-know-to-be Light Affirming excuses or reasons here) litany just doesn't carry the same weight. We have a freedom to chose otherwise due to the binding choice that we made.

Again, this is not a binding to external should's, expectations and or cultural imperatives- even yoga culture imperatives. I am talking about binding ourselves to our own Light through our choices and through our skillful action. For what is practice but those methods, techniques, behaviors and attitudes that Bind us to our Light? That is the whole thing. That is bringing effort to Grace. And the teachings tell us then we do that, then Grace carries us, Grace showers its blessing on us.

I personally think that many times the Blessing of Grace with which we are showered is the ability to practice more. We become blessed with the ability to bind ourselves to our Light more intelligently, more skillfully, in deeper and more profound ways, in harder circumstances, for longer periods of time. It is the most amazing positive reinforcement cycle there is.

So when Douglas gave that teaching about Exquisite Bondage he did say its paradoxical. Once bound, we do experience a greater freedom but its often not what we imagined it would be nor is the cost quite as cheap as we might have hoped it would be.

Which makes me think of another book I should write. It could be called "The Fine Print of Yoga." It would have little teachings in it like-

Chapter One: The Teachings on Ultimate Freedom-
Each one of us is connected to the Source of Freedom Itself. In fact, that is our true nature. You are nothing other than that Essential Unbounded Freedom.
  • The Fine Print- "Oh sure, you can have Ultimate Freedom, but first, you will be a slave to the Path."
Chapter Two- The Teachings on Equanimity-
By living in the Flow of Grace you can live in the direct experience of the truth that exists beyond the rise and fall of circumstances. You will know that place of dynamic stillness that is your very essence.
  • The Fine Print- "Sure you can have equanimity, but only after directly experiencing the heights and depths of your psyche."
Chapter Three- The Teachings of Immortality
Your soul never dies. You are the Immortal, the Changeless, That which was never born and will never die.
  • The Fine Print-Oh sure, you will know you are immortal, but along the way you will think death seems like a very good option."
See, it go on like that... And I think we would also need to have another section called"The Price You will Pay." Like meditation, diet, asana, surrender, service, loss of interest in many things you used to enjoy, etc.

All right, enough already...although indulging my sarcastic side like that was kind of cathartic.

Have a good day!


5 comments:

dina said...

Hi Christina - LOVE this post. So many places to contemplate our experiences of freedom and how we can choose to practice it. I'll be chewing on this one for quite some time. I would definitely read that book :)
Best,
Dina

Emma said...

who knew abe was a yogi?

Marcia Tullous said...

Hello...

I so needed to read that. Words and meaning are so much fun! Love the fine print... This made me laugh because it is so true!

Love You,
Marcia

Jeremiah Wallace said...

Bwahaha! I love the "oh sure" s. :-)

Dale said...

A book that I really Really REALLY wish someone would write is "Hatha Yoga the Anusara Way," comprising a few hundred pages of UPA teaching, dozens of examples of each upa in action, and the poses on the Anusara yoga poster discussed fully in terms of the upa. I'd like to see a chapter on how the upas align us energetically & subtiley, and tons of drawings on the way that the actions of the upas move the structures of the body in Western anatomical terms. Something like Doug's book, but updated to the current level of Anusara & expanded.

And who better to write such a book than you?