Yoga As Protector
The actor, Meg Ryan, says yoga allows her to be a witness to herself.
When modeling a yoga pose, I may ask, "What do you see?" Karim, our co-director, reminds us to "explore" yoga's effects. Our teachers approach yoga much like the scientist in a laboratory, suspending judgments to witness results.
This skill of observing brings new perspectives. Ultimately, yoga teaches us to take responsibility for our lives in a pro-active, loving way. This powerful choice brings the fruit of more success in relationships, health, and happiness. We begin to own without ego the impact of our choices as they affect others and our world.
I love the metaphor in the movie A Beautiful Mind. I felt the protagonist, John Nash, fed his genius to the negative ego. He felt superior to his colleagues and used it as a club, perhaps to make up for poor self-esteem. The demons of his mind or "lies of the ego" fed his arrogance. He begins to believe the world will be saved only with his help; this "savior complex" ultimately created a living nightmare. The professor's triumph of spirit was to refuse the negativity of the hallucinations; to not react to them despite their immense power.
Many other great works of literature focus on similar themes, such as Don Quioxte or Ordinary People or Star Wars. Perhaps not as dramatic, but for many of us our yoga practice gives us an opportunity to discover our personal illusions and limitations. If we persist, we may choose to disengage the negative ego masked in self-pity, fear, control issues, manipulations, or feelings of superiority or inferiority.
"The brain must be alert," writes Dona Holleman (she returns to teach us Aug. 2) in her book Dancing the Body of Light. She says the releasing of tension in the muscles always begins with the brain giving this directive. "However," she says, "For some, the brain is not the protector but the attacker with its constant agitations."
Absolutely, the negative cycle breaks with the practice of yoga. It directs us to the inner world of the heart. What ultimately saved John Nash? The powerful commitment of his wife to love and his willingness to receive her love (blending mind and heart, male and female, or yin and yang.)
This process of yoga becomes lighter and more successful when, like John Nash, we REFUSE negativity. Whether this Nobel Prize winner or real-life yogis like Meg Ryan, the success comes by practicing with right effort and intent. Being raised on a Kansas farm was great training for yoga. The work of spring planting led to keeping the crops free of weeds and fertilized into early summer. Then nature took over. Torrential storms and high winds could, and often did, destroy many crops. Other years, crops were abundant.
We trusted our abundance would come with the effort of planting. We had to let go each season regardless of outcome.
At the time of this writing, I attended John Schumacher's teacher's weekend training in D.C. No coincidence he closed the weekend with these words: "Everything you say and do as you teach plants seeds," he said. "Actually, everything you say and do in life plants seeds. More than cause and effect, every word and action counts."
To be "witness" we continue to be conscious of what we say, what we do; what we believe; how we change, why we make the choices we make. Yoga helps create this freedom.