Oh those vrrtis

Anyone familiar with the third section of the Yoga Sutras – vibhuti pada? If so, a conversation would be most helpful, as this leaves my little brain spinning, imagining all of the vibhutis (the powers) possible as one proceeds towards the ultimate freedom (kaivalya).

My thoughts.

As consciousness gets evermore clarified (from its potential form [dharma] to refinement of states [laksana] and conditions [avastha]) and is integrated (samyama) – AMAZING gifts happen. Here’s a sampling of what’s possible:

  • Knowledge of past, present and future Knowledge of languages of all beings, including animals
  • Knowledge of previous births
  • Ability to understand the minds of others
  • Ability to become invisible
  • Ability to make sound, smell, taste, form and touch disappear
  • Knowledge of the time and place of one’s own death.
  • Ability to be as strong and graceful as an elephant
  • Knowledge of concealed things
  • Knowledge of this solar system and others, the positions of the stars
  • Knowledge of the course of destiny…

There are about 20 more – it’s hard to keep up.

Blows your mind, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing – with ALL of these gifts, comes the necessity of detachment, renunciation, (vairagyad).

Even these powers are citta vrittis– disturbances of consciousness – that must become irrelevant (you guessed it) – through practice and detachment.

I.12 abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan-nirodhah. Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness.

From the first time you step on your yoga mat, and that very first pose you try, you get to experience all of the vrrtis you’ve been carrying around all these years – all the worries, the confidence, the rage, the joy – and then practice to make NOTHING of it.

On the mat.

Practice an asana you know really well. Observe the thoughts in your mind as you come into the asana, be in the asana, come out of the asana, and reflect on the asana.

Practice an asana you struggle with. Observe the thoughts in your mind as you come into the asana, be in the asana, come out of the asana, and reflect on the asana.

It’s ALL citta vrittis – mind stuff, to be dispelled with dispassion and non-identification.

Off the mat.

Cook up a great meal. Observe the thoughts in your mind as you think about what to prepare, then prepare, eat, finish, clean up and reflect.

Cook up a disastrous meal. Observe the thoughts in your mind as you think about what to prepare, then prepare, eat, finish, clean up and reflect.

It’s all mind stuff. It’s all just stuff. It’s all part of the human experience.

Cook a great meal. Cook a dud.
Hit a homerun. Strike out.
Piss off a loved one. Then give them a hug.

See you on the mat.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Sutra translations from Iyengar, BKS (1993). Light on the Yoga Sutras, London: Harper Collins

The Psycho-Physicality of Tadasana, Mountain Pose

…we human beings live between the two realities of earth and sky. The earth stands for all that is practical, material, tangible, incarnate. It is the knowable world, objectively knowable through the voyages of discovery and observation.”
BKS Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 5

What better way to come to know the world and yourself then through the practice of tadasana, Mountain Pose. Tada means mountain, and it creates the image of something dense, broad-based, ascending towards the sky. This pose is also known as samasthiti. Sama means upright, straight, unmoved. And sthiti means standing still and steady.

This is where all asana begins, where we explore our connection to the earth, and extend through the crown of the head towards the sky. And in-between we cultivate an authentic consciousness of extension and expansion. For practitioners, beginners and experienced alike, it is an energizing practice to come from your normal “how you stand” into tadasana.

The instructions are simple (from LOY, .61)

  1. Stand erect with the feet together, the heels and big toes touching each other. Rest the heads of the metatarsals (the ball mounds) on the floor and stretch all the toes flat on the floor.
  2. Tighten the knees and pull the knee-caps up, contract the high and pull up the muscles at the back of the thighs.
  3. Keep the stomach in, chest forward, spine stretched up and the neck straight.
  4. Do not bear the weight of the body whether on the heels or the toes, but dispute it evenly on them both.

This last bit – standing evenly on the feet – is what stumps most people. Because of architecture (bone structure), musculature, habit, illness, worklife, hobbies, etc. we develop habits of the feet that ultimately leave us less connected to the ground.

On the mat.

  1. As you come into tadasana, bend forward and spread your toes, one foot at a time. Manually extend each toe forward.
  2. Then, manually extend the sole of each foot. Lift the metatarsals and – again, one foot at a time – spread and extend the skin of each sole forward.
  3. Then come to stand, and – keeping the toes extended, metatarsals spread, sole extended – lift the heel (one at a time) and reach it back. Then, lean down into both heels evenly without lifting the front of the feet off the floor.
  4. Observe – your feet, calves, knees, thighs, hips, front and back of the torso, up through the crown of the head.
  5. Observe – energetically, the breath, the gaze, the mind.

Off the mat.

Practice tadasana (without the manual manipulation of your feet) everywhere! Standing in line at the grocery store, washing the dishes, where-ever there is an opportunity to stand still, upright and strong.

From Rumi, the Sufi poet:

Where ever you you stand
Be the soul of that place.

See you on the mat.

Begin again.

Why is it that we so often forget the power of “beginning again”?

So often we have an experience that does not go well – and we make that experience mean something so powerful or awful that it “colors” the the rest of the day, the week, the year, maybe the lifetime. 

Or maybe progress in your work or your personal life is not happening as fast as you want, or as well as you want. 

On the mat, at any moment, it is easy to get discouraged, or bored, or hurt. And that’s it. You are done. Arm balance becomes a wishful idea, as does balancing on your head in the middle of the room, or getting up from the floor without pain. So something happens/something goes awry, and you are done. Fini. You choose to be done. 

To come at it from another perspective, consider that a baby, when learning to walk, does not have a repertoire of thoughts about failing or disappointment. Watching a baby learn to walk can be both hilarious and frightening, as you never know which end will plant on the ground when balance is lost (bottom or face). The baby doesn’t consider failures – that baby is UNSTOPPABLE in its effort to do this walking-thing, forgetting past effort, with no clue of what lies ahead. The baby just chooses to walk. And after falling, the baby chooses to walk again. 

Get on the mat and choose to practice, with tapas and svadyaya – effort and self-study.

If it does not go so well, you can begin again at any moment – tomorrow, later today, or how about now?

Choose every day as a new beginning.

See you on the mat.