“Love must be incarnated in the smallest pore of the skin, the smallest cell of the body, to make them intelligent so they can collaborate with all the other ones, in the big republic of the body. This love must radiate from you to others.”- B.K.S. Iyengar
This was my third trip to teach in Sydney, Australia at Preshana Yoga. When Ananda and I planned this visit last year we talked about how nice it would be to have a workshop at Preshana that was a bit less intense in terms of the time and financial commitment for the students. My previous visits were part of a 200-hour training program and were 6-day courses and we thought it would be great to give students a way to touch base with themselves, with me, with each other, without such a major undertaking. We planned a day-long Teacher's Intensive and a weekend workshop and since it happened to fall over Valentine's Day we decided to go with the obvious theme of LOVE.
Teaching LOVE is always a great theme for me because it reminds me of why I practice, why I teach and what I am actually interested in in my own sadhana. As much as can spin a yarn on the business of yoga, the trends in the evolution of the practice, my opinions about effective teaching and so on and so on and so on... the thing I am actually into is LOVE. All the smarty-pants yoga knowledge I have and love to learn about from other reliable sources is only part of the picture. All the fancy asana in the world is valuable only to the extent it returns me to myself in love. As much as I operate under the overt expressions of engineer-athlete as a teacher and practitioner, I am primarily a bhakti yogi. To me this whole thing is about love.
Now, as we all know, I am not into love as some kind of ooey-gooey- lovey-dovey-same-same it's-all-good-whatever-goes-its-all-yoga-hare-krishna-kind-of-thing. I am into love as the only-thing-that-will-simoultaneuously-kick-your-ass-while-empowering-you-to-be-your- best-and-is-the-only-thing-of-lasting-value-in-the-whirlwind-of-life-as-we-know-it. I am into love like that. The kind of love that works you over and carries you through. Ken Wilber says it well in his book Grace and Grit: "Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you."
And since it doesn't always come easily to me to reside in that place inside myself, I consider it a great blessing and boon to have an entire weekend to explore asana and teaching as Pathways to Love. As we all know, I love asana as exercise, I love the anatomy, I love the intricacies of alignment and I adore the joy of movement. On one level, I love those things for themselves. I really do. I am happy to walk into a very physically-oriented class and let the physicality of the practice be what it is. I do not always think about God when I practice trikonasana at home. I really don't.
And yet... (you see, with me there is always an "and yet...") And yet, those things in and of themselves, as awesome as they are, are not my primary interest in the practices and principles of yoga. Were asana only a physical thing, I would still be training for races, lifting weights and going to the gym all the time. (There is nothing wrong with those things AT ALL. I am not grinding an axe here about those things. I think those activities are perfectly compatible with yoga and higher aims. As we all know, I love a great bike ride, a walk in the woods and I am happy whenever someone is intelligently exercising. I am simply referencing my history where many of those endeavors gave way to what I found on my mat. Everyone has a different story.)
And as much as I am interested in all the physical aspects of the practice within their own right, I am more interested in how the deeper knowledge of the body, the anatomy, the postures, the breath and all of the attending techniques, work to open me up interiorly. I am interested how the technology of yoga expands my awareness and how that expansion makes new pathways of movement available to me. And as much as I love new physical openings and progress in and through the body, I am not talking about physical pathways of movement only. I am talking about pathways of movement that allow me to apologize more quickly when I am wrong, to own up to my shortcomings with less shame, to choose behaviors beyond addiction and to feel love for myself and others. Those are the pathways of movement in which I am most interested. And that is the yoga I pursue every day.
I recently wrote a Facebook post that I do not, and never have done, asana every day. Some of that has to do with working with my own compulsivity, some of that has to do with lifestyle and schedules and some of that has to do with knowing my body needs rest and recovery days to enhance performance. At any rate, I think the only practice I can say I do every day is Remembrance. I endeavor to Remember myself, my values, those things that I love, that I hold worthy of adoration and devotion and to call them to my consciousness. Sometimes Remembrance is internal. Sometimes it takes outer shape. Truth be told, all the inner and outer practices of asana, mantra, pranayama, diet, prayer, self-observation, etc. can all be filed under the category of Remembrance. Lee called the basic practices The Names of God and taught that these sanity-producing activities of practice were the ways that we could bring devotion, or love, to life.
I'll write more soon but the point is that well, love is the point. And as far as I am concerned when we are in the stream of love- be it self-love, love-for-child, love-for-an activity, love-for-student, love-for-teacher, love-for-mate, love-for-Beloved and love-for-God, it is the love that is stream of divinity, not the object of said feeling. I ponder this a lot these days- Love is the verb. Not the object. God is the verb, not the object.
Anyway, we started with these ideas on our first day for teachers and continued throughout the weekend with asana, pranayama, chanting, laughter and well- LOVE!
Here are the sequences we worked with. More or less we stayed close to the list with a few forays and explorations from the baseline. Enjoy.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."