A ‘crash’ course in yoga, to prevent you from crashing
If you ever had the pleasure of visiting South India, you will know how important it is to protect yourself from what is commonly known as the ‘Mozzi’. Apart from the fact that these little critters transmit disease, they can devour a human, like a shoal of piranha, in seconds (ok, I slightly exaggerate). Due to this antagonising little shit, it is best that the traveller lay under a net at bedtime. That is, if he or she aims to sleep with any degree of comfort. It matters not if you take a room of the highest standard or the highest floor; the ‘Mozzi’ likes its ancestor the ‘Nazzi’ will do its best to bring you suffering.
So, we make our bed and we lay in it. In this case, you have surrounded yourself with protective netting to avoid being ravished! Your safe haven is so well made that a herd of Elephants couldn’t penetrate it (there I go again). There are no gaps and no way, even the most cunning of mosquitoes’ could enter. But, there is a problem; you closed your fortress doors with a ‘Nazzi’ inside. And, this blood thirsty beast has the intention of you becoming a pin cushion, by morning you will look like you have the mumps. My point is this: you may have the best intention to avoid suffering, but unless you look inside correctly, you will suffer.
Are you asleep or awake?
In his book ‘Living Dangerously’ Osho suggests that a Yogi is simply one who is together, one who is aware of their actions and aligned with truth. I have told many students a simple example of what yoga isn’t, it goes like this: Two students are practicing side by side, the first is perfectly aligned in seershasanam (head stand) the other is sitting cross legged in padmasana. The first student has the posture nailed, the other is slightly twisted at the waist and the head droops slightly forward. One is practicing yoga, the other is not. Of course, due to the nature of me asking, it is quite probable that the underdog is the one actually practicing yoga, but how? How can it be, that the student out of kilter is practicing yoga and the upright one is not? The answer is simple, the first student is proud as a peacock; he has read many books and due to his persistence has forced his body to align upside down. The second, however, the true yogi, is comfortable with his effort. He knows that the posture will develop in due course. So long as he gives his best and remains true to his own capability, and not that of his fellow student, he remains in union (yoga). So, one student is awake, the other is asleep. When you are asleep, yoga can become the enemy.
I have personally witnessed the enemy face to face. I have also seen the enemy on the face of others; it’s not a pretty sight. Due to the thirst of attaining yoga, I became bedridden with a chronic illness for 2 years. Then, after being confined to a life of insular desperation, it took a further 3 years to make my recovery. The enemy has the capacity to destroy you! Of course, it’s not yoga that will take your soul, but more so your desperation to reach it. My story was one of desire, I learnt about yoga, and then applied everything I learnt with the motivation of a Trojan. I became chronically exhausted, to the point that I might as well have eaten the books I read.
They say, ‘the eyes are a window to the soul’, but mine were whirlpools of confusion. You may have seen this in some seekers – they become inwardly drawn – their search is so strong. I was told I must look inside that the enemy is within. Of course doing this, without caution, can be contra indicatory. Yoga is about making peace with the world not alienating ourselves from it. Since my subsequent recovery, I now practice yoga from a place of knowing and not of seeking. I would say, the main ingredients for reaching this state, were observation, reflection and acceptance. Not to mention the mantra: be patient; be patient; be patient.
Practice yoga like a Russian athlete and your peril
During a visit, to the mosquito capital of India, I spent time in an ashram where I met a young Russian lad whose desire to enter yoga was troublesome. I saw the enemy in his eyes; it was like looking into the mirror of my past. The Swami who was running the course expressed concern; the boy was not eating and losing vitality by the day. With an unrivalled persistence to reach the state of meditation the young lad was so withdrawn that his capacity to engage in life was worrying. Often, in mid conversation, the young lad would switch the topic, to matters of super-consciousness. It was as though he did not wish to be of this world and sought to reach nothing less than instant bliss. Between classes, whilst the other students were interrelating, the boy sat searching for his ‘true self’, admirable maybe, but disturbing also. His room was littered with books, but his eyes looked tired, tired of searching for answers.
Through my experience I have learnt to see the world through different eyes, the eyes of momentary awareness. I like to look for the message that every moment presents – it is treasure after all. I remember sitting with the young lad at lunchtime, and it was not long before he asked about the ‘secret’ power of pranayama. Surely if he could master this, he would reach his goal. I told him to be careful what he reads, the development of such practice needs to be taught by a master. I referred to our lunch which included idli, a soft dumpling made from fermented black lentils and rice. I proposed that he saw pranayama as the base ingredient from which idli was made. That it was the foundation for developing nourishment for the mind. But, if too much flour was used in one sitting, or the mix was over fermented it would spoil – inevitably he would become stuck. Also, that this mix was used in many traditional foods and to stick to one would be robbing his pallet. Only once he had tasted a variety of recipes could he be sure to find one best suited to him.
The lad raised an eyebrow; needless to say he ate all his lunch for the first time since arriving.