I recently returned from my trip to India. While I was there, as usual, I attended about two classes a day whenever I could and taught once a week to get feedback from my senior teachers who have known me since I was a kid.
While doing Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose), it dawned on me… how many different ways could you do downward-facing dog on a mat??? Every year I come back from my trip, I find myself teaching with a completely new perspective… a different Adho Mukha Svanasana. It’s funny how I always hear the students express… “Wow, I have not felt so light in Adho Mukha Svanasana” or ‘”It seems like I can stay here forever!” Wasn’t this what they told me last year as well? I realize that all of us are so used to doing an asana a certain way and somehow do get back to auto-drive. It’s only when you are in class and listening to the instructions and following it that you can achieve something better and deeper.
Yoga is a vast subject and you can never learn enough. There is always something new to it… the same pose can be approached in a completely different way. It all depends where your attention is!
I was attending morning classes with Birjoo Sir (he is the brother of Neeta Datta who will be coming to Sunset yoga in March), and he was making us work on the asanas with illumination. While in class, Birjoo Sir said a very interesting thing… a very obvious observation yet so profound! We move our attention from one part to the other. Oh yes, we all do that don’t we?!? He said that is a wrong way of working. Yoga asanas should be done like optics, not mechanics. I wondered what that meant. The explanation he gave is that mechanics involves movement. If we have two rows of bricks and we want to increase the weight on the right side, we will take the bricks from the left and add them to the right pile. Now if we want to increase the weight on the left side, we will naturally take off the bricks from the right and add them to the left!
Optics means you are working with light. If there are two disks kept on either side of a candle, the light will not go beyond that disk. If we take off the disk from the right side, the right side will be brightened. Now if we want to brighten the left side, all we have to do is take off the disk from the left side! When the disk from the left side is taken off, the brightness on the right will not be affected. The light and illumination just spread.
Now let’s use the optics and mechanics in an example with asana. You are doing Adho Mukha Svanasana and you are asked to lengthen your back. You work on the back. Then the instruction is to work on the legs. What happens now? If you are working like in mechanics, you completely forget about your back and put full attention on your legs. While if you are working with optics, you maintain the attention in your back and all you do is remove the disk and expand your attention to your legs as well, spreading the illumination to both the legs and the back.
It was very interesting to work through asanas with this perspective. The experience of each asana was completely different and spread out yet deep.
I thoroughly enjoyed the classes back home and look forward to sharing my illumination with you all.