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Posts Tagged ‘Yoga Sutras’

The Nature of Yoga

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Swish, schworl, crash.  Beep, beep, hummmmm.  Twal-a tweet, twal-a-tweet, twal-a-tweet.  As I begin to teach yoga class this bright sunny morning I am aware of the many elements of nature and humanity that surround me.  The crashing of the sea, the engine drone from the beach cleaner and the high pitch hum of the sand blower, the different songs of the birds around us, the conversations from the morning walkers, and the sound of the wind, always the sound of the wind.  For many yoga teachers the set up of their class is about control, from the temperature of the room, the airflow, the volume of the music or the way they manage the noise level.  For my husband, Don, and me it is about letting go of control. 

 

Over the past 8 years we have had the honor of teaching yoga classes primarily on beaches.  From May through October we teach our classes on a wooden platform, on a Cape Cod beach overlooking Nantucket Sound, with Martha’s Vineyard just off the shore.  Then in November we change our view by moving our location onto the beach at Ft Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West, FL.  Each location is unique.  On the Cape we are nestled into a dune, part of a private beach club, on a wooden platform with a rather convertible tent overhead.  In Key West we have taught on a wooden platform on the corner of a busy intersection, (thanks to Hurricane Wilma) on a quieter section of the beach with a sun roof overhead, and now we teach under a grove of pine trees on the berm of the beach overlooking the juncture of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  Although the locations are different the challenges seem to still present themselves and the lessons and meaning of Yoga have become apparent.

 

The Beginning – Yoga Defined

I was first exposed to outdoor Yoga classes in 2000 when Don and I began to winter in Key West, FL.  What a treat we thought, yoga classes on a beach.  It wasn’t long before I discovered the gift of outdoor classes, although at first I found only frustrations.  “How can anyone relax with all this noise”, I heard my mind chattering away.  I would get so frazzled with all of the life noises of a city beach, from cars, tour guides, walkers deep in their conversations, sirens, Harleys, even the more serene sounds of birds overhead would set me off.  One day during Sivasana it began to rain and nothing happened except my mind chatter.  “Why isn’t she saying anything?”  “Why aren’t we getting up?”  My mind was incredulous that here we were with rain coming down and no one was doing a thing.  As quickly as it began the rain stopped, and I got the joke.  The sense of unity began to permeate me.  “I am part of this, and this is part of me,” is what my whole being began to remember. It is temporary.  From then on I realized if I could find my center, a deep sense of peace with all that goes on in an outdoor class, I could find it all day long in real life!  I am not apart, I am united. 

 

The Path – Lessons along the way

One of the basic and more prevalent meanings of Yoga is to unite, while another definition is Yoga is ecstasy.  The path of Yoga, for me, has been deeply carved by a connection to nature.  I can find threads of that connection now in any class (indoors or outside) that I take or teach.  It is alive in me, yet I find a whole network of connection when I am outdoors doing Yoga.  It is a gift to be able to teach in the ever-changing environment of nature.  One student recently chuckled and said, “Thank you for creating such a beautiful studio complete with a background that is in constant creation.”  I laughed back and said, “No problem I have hired coworkers to stand and spin the backdrop for you.” 

 

With trees surrounding our class I connect to the symbiotic relationship that unites us through the simple act of breathing.  As each of us breathes in, we are in the receptive energy, breathing in the fresh oxygen right from the source.  Then with each exhalation we give, consciously give, of our breath and the carbon dioxide back to the trees.  It is reciprocity in action, yoga uniting man and nature. How ecstatic to experience this connection in the consciousness of mind and the physical moment at the same time.   The direct connection with other living beings inspires “direct knowing”, and stimulates the meaning of “Yoga is ecstasy.”

 

To be witness to our own breath while breathing with the negative ions that are stimulated by each ocean wave uplifts us.  To hear each wave as it ripples through us, unites us.  To be inspired by the movement of dolphins swimming by, or the stillness of the trees, and the omnipresence of the wind awakens a state of ecstasy within.  Ah, the wind how it does awaken so many things from, appreciation to frustration.  Some days we are in great appreciation as the wind helps to keep us bug-free, while other days it can blow so hard that although there are no bugs, the sand begins to blast on our ankles.  I have learned the lesson of non-attachment in many different ways, as every day is unique on so many levels. 

 

Non-attachment, oh what a vast precept of Yoga.  Nature offers such a fertile field to practice non-attachment, and encourages surrender.  I share with my students the concept of surrender as “a conscious decision to go with something that is greater than you are.”  Feeling the Earth directly underneath you in a pose and surrendering to that support can be profound.  Feeling gravity drawing you into the Earth and learning to go with it, rather than resisting it awakens the understanding for many of surrender.  We can quickly recognize the force of gravity as something much “greater” than we are, and then look for ways to ease into a pose using gravity.  Uniting with a force that is greater than you are brings us back to the meaning of Yoga.  There is a great sense of peace that comes when we are united in our consciousness in this way.

 

The first time I knew I was mastering this inner sense of peace, in a world that seemed so chaotic, was the morning a motorcycle with a loud set of mufflers drove by the platform and all I heard was AAAaaauuuuummmmmmmm.  What a tickle went through me.  I realized that all resistance to the sound had vanished and oneness was pervading.  I felt the absence of Avidya, misapprehension, slipping away as I was not hearing the sound as something to reject (dvesa).  What I heard was the Universal sound of Aum vibrating all around me.  In the moment there was nothing else.  Divine!

 

Samadhi – Realization

 

In studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras we come to the concept of Isvarapranidhana, surrendering to a higher power.  Whatever name you may call this power, from the tradition or religion you may come from, teaching Yoga classes on beaches offers a direct experience with it.  Nature offers us the opportunity to recognize beauty all around us, and we see the divine.  The spirit that shines outside, as sunlight sparkles on the water, parting through clouds or dancing on leaves demands your awareness that something greater than you is at hand.  And you remember that you are part of It. 

 

Namaste – Takes one to know one

 

We open our eyes at the end of a class and see such beauty. Through yoga we learn that our perception is guided by our experience and understanding.  To be able to recognize beauty outside of ourselves it must exist within us.  In seeing beauty surrounding us from the dance of light in tree branches, to the gliding of a bird overhead we are recognizing beauty from a place within us that knows beauty.  It lives in us.  Each class we honor the light that exists in us and in all things around us with Namaste.  How delicious to embrace this sense of honoring through a connection with Nature’s expression of it.  We are truly blessed in our yoga studio called Nature.  Namaste.   

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