Over the weekend, I attended a yoga convention led by Birjoo Mehta, a senior and long-time practitioner of Iyengar Yoga from Mumbai. Throughout the 3 days, he taught us how to access the asanas (poses) that we practice with greater ease and stability. However, before we get to that – what inspired me most was what he shared with us about where are bodies and minds go during our practice.
Often, when we practice yoga, use a lot of muscle action, pulling and pushing ourselves to stretch our bodies and to try to reach some idealized vision of how the pose we are practicing should look. Where is our consciousness at this time? Birjoo explained, “All of this muscular skeletal action is the Ego. And when we focus on the Ego, everything else goes wrong.”
However, we have a choice to shift our consciousness –to pay attention to something else. You may be wondering – what could that be when my body is shaking in a forward bend, in a headstand, or in a backbend. What should I focus on instead of the muscles and bones holding me up? Birjoo suggested, we could start, instead, with a focus on the spine. The spine is our center. It holds our body in balance, and it is the place of neutrality. To work with the spine, you simply try to find when it is in the center. You could try this while standing tall – shift your hips to each side, notice that you can iterate, shifting side to side with increasingly smaller movements, to find when your spine is in the center. So, “When you work with the spine in a forward bend, you do not try to touch the floor. You simply seek neutrality. And suddenly, there is no right or wrong – there is only the center.”
How can we take this into our life? I know that I often wrestle with what is the right answer to some problem that I’m struggling with in my mind. This could be a minor question – like how should I spend my time for the next hour, or it may be a life-changing question, such as, should I relocate my home. What could I do – well I can shift my attention to one option and then the other, I could look for where I find my center.
In our lives, we have so many choices. Rather than looking for the ‘right’ answer – maybe we could practice finding the balance – not between right and wrong – but rather, where do we find ourselves centered?