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THE ONE THING THAT IS CONSTANT

By Donna Amrita Davidge

The one thing that is constant is change. How much our world has changed in the last 100 years. This accelerated living most of us experience- fast cars, fast talking, cell phones, always on the move, always thinking, always doing- may be a reason that yoga has become so popular. However, do we really change when we approach and begin a yoga practice? Or has the westernization of yoga affected this choice?

My observation would be that people sometimes gravitate, and perhaps often so, to Hatha or slow Iyengar practice if they are inherently slow and careful while a hard driven tightly wound up type may be drawn to Astanga or Bikram practice, both very physical practices that may be ineffectively approached in a competitive manner.

One student I met who was going through a divorce when I first met her appeared calm. She expressed how much the yoga she had been doing had been helping her. When she attended a class her actions were aggressive, she was constantly moving, adding and doing things that were not in the instructions being given. After the session I waited until the other students had left and spoke with her suggesting that perhaps her additional rapid movements might be distracting to the other students in the class. She became very angry and defensive, saying that she had injuries and because of this she had to be constantly moving and very warm all the time. My assessment as a teacher, had she wanted to hear it, was that a fast moving Astanga practice at this time in her life, and perhaps because of her overall temperament, may have led to the injuries. Especially when one is going through times of change and challenge is a time to let your yoga practice nurture you and hold you in a gentle allowing place in your life, not a forced place.

Anyone who is uptight in life can more easily injure themselves in a strong fast yoga practice. They would be much better off doing the same poses or asanas more slowly to experience the therapeutic effects of the pose, such as emotional release and physical softening and opening . In the case of this woman my perception was that she was, like many practitioners today, using yoga like an aerobics class or a good long run, to force the stress our of her system. It is times like these we must search our heart and not our head. Yoga gives us this opportunity with every slow breath, every time we pull our spine up, letting our shoulders relax and the chest open, not leading with the head forward of the chin, but with a feeling of receptivity and vulnerability to life and it's changes.

In this woman's life a slower cooling practice would have helped balance the fire of pitta that was creating the anger and calm the vatta, the wind that would not allow her to be still thus was causing in her this need to be constantly moving. Only then can we experience what we are truly feeling, as uncomfortable as it might be, and begin to heal the hurt.

What I would have suggested at this time, had the woman not been blocked by her need to be right, was a much more meditative and still physically fulfilling practice which in the long run would have helped the injuries and made the transition more smooth. Just as fast jerky movements in yoga can cause injury to the body, fast movements and reactions of the mind can harm ourselves and others.

We should practice ahimsa, nonviolence towards ourselves. If this is something we have not thought of before or need to be reminded of, it is a powerful part of our yoga practice:

This is a wonderful quote from Vanda Scaravelli's book Awakening the Spine. (Vanda started with Iyengar as her teacher in her 40's and practiced and taught into her 90's). "Yoga… it is a living process that changes moment by moment, watching when we eat. How we eat, when we walk, how we walk, what we say and how we say it. All these things must be present in us and we must be passionately interested in them all."

And finally, this quote: "A rigid mind is very sure but often wrong. A flexible mind is generally unsure, but often right." So keep asking the questions, looking for the answers in life and through your yoga practice all the while willing to go with the flow, remembering the one thing that is constant is change and what we worked for us once may not right now or ever again.
 


Amrita (Donna) has been teaching Kundalini Yoga in NY city since 1985 and in a retreat setting in northern Maine since 1997. She has produced video and audiocassettes and continues her practice with studying various forms of yoga besides Kundalini. She is certified by 3HO and Yoga Alliance. Amrita also teaches workshops on the East coast and has taught in Costa Rica and various spas. For more information: www.sewallhouse.com



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