Today, I came to my mat like a lover returning to his long-lost Beloved, like a child coming home, like a soldier returning from war. As I spread my fingers on the mat and pressed my hips back into Child’s Pose, this all occurred (re-occurred) to me. I was home, in the one place (outside my heart, of course) that was safe, the one place that was sanctuary…my old Manduka mat and Yogi Toes cover. It could as well have been a deerskin and kusha grass (the original yoga ‘mat’)…it was my place. It could have been an Iyengar studio, or an ashtanga one, or a kundalini one…I was home.
As I deepened the breath and held my space, I felt it all drop. All of it; the government shutdown, the flood and its aftermath, personal challenges…all of it. I was safe, and in my space, snug as a bug in a rug. Feeling the earth press back against me, supporting me, I gloried in the sensation of being alive, here with my yogi brothers and sisters, with these special and holy and fallibly human people.
I couldn’t help letting out a sigh, like you’d do after the third or fourth time making love that night. All of me…releasing…being there. (Hope I didn’t freak out the people near me, but it was soft and secret, like a lover’s sigh).
As my awareness expanded beyond myself, I felt glorious, shining Megan next to me. How I knew it, I couldn’t tell – I just could. Her energy shines in a special spectrum, and I had flowed next to her before (or at least in the same room…the same thing when we are connected by Yoga), so I recognized her. Daring not to drop my drishti (point of inward focus) or open my eyes, I merely reveled in feeling her energy, in sync with mine.
Oddest thing ever. I didn’t even really know this woman, Yet I felt her in tune with me like I’d feel a lover I’d known for life. She most likely didn’t even know me, or if she did, I was probably just that kooky-looking old guy whose sweat did not smell like strawberries (one of my little aspirations, but I keep on smelling like sweaty guy). None of that mattered. We were here and flowing together.
In the visual world, I had no evidence it was her. An impression of colors (gray tights and blue top?) a sense of her presence and position (as I was inverted, I somehow knew she was as well, both hands holding her ankle as I held mine in standing splits), a flash of unpainted toes as my drishti slipped in a side twist that faced me towards her, the impression of cascading hair the color of the good earth (she probably had it up, but that’s what my visual cortex thought). Glimpses, as I opened my eyes to keep from falling, or to verify my hand or foot position in a change. All of this could have been wrong, but that’s the few bytes of data my eyes were allowed.
See, when we flow I just cannot be a guy. I cannot look upon these women as a man would. I cannot even look at them at all. If I did, I would most likely A) get a woody and B) fall down since I had lost my point of focus. My yoga sisters are just too beautiful to behold, and if I let myself get in that mode, it would be all I could do to behold them, much less perform my practice. Besides, they are most likely someone’s wife or girlfriend, so I respect them and hold my space, allowing them the sanctuary and sanctity of theirs. I flow with them as a fellow being of Light, not as some horn-dog guy.
As my attention and consciousness spread throughout my body, part of my awareness soared through the room, feeling my other brothers and sisters, some new and some I’d been flowing next to for years. Each had their own energy signature. With my glasses off, the outward world was a blur of sweat and soft-focus tones. A sea of fingers reaching up in Tadasana, an ocean of toes flying upward in Airplane. All together.
I couldn’t identify one of the people by sight (I kept my eyes closed as much as I could, not that it would matter), but I could sure feel them in no small way. I knew them by their Light. Rich…Sasha…Megan…all of them…
This sensation filled me with a sense of connectedness – one I’d been missing for a while (since my last yoga class, at least).
This all sounds so corny when seen in black and white, but it was tangible and real in that moment.
As we flowed, my consciousness expanded outward and collapsed inward…or vice versa. Soon, I was covered with sweat, my breath becoming a bit ragged at times (I hadn’t flowed in a class for four days prior, rare for me). My consciousness was soon directed to just the things needed – pressure on that big toe so I don’t fall down, attention to my breath, so I could generate the required energy, Those things.
Through it all, a sense of bhakti pervaded the room, my being, my practice. Bhakti, possibly the essence of yoga. Bhakti – gratitude or praise…mostly translated from the Sanskrit as devotion. It comes from the root word bhaj, to share or to love. There it is. Sharing, loving – that’s exactly what we were doing. On the outside, it looked like we were engaged in the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga), moving in and out of positions (asana) in a flow sequence we call vinyasa. Yeah, it looked like that on the outside.
I can never keep this shit-eating grin off my face when I am flowing, especially when I am flowing together with others. I can’t imagine how I must have looked…but didn’t care. That grin is just an effect of the Divine Light filling me, the wind that fills the old and tattered sail I call myself. If it were just ‘I,’ the egoic guy, I would most likely have a grimace of determination, of discipline, or of serious no-fucking-around doing my yoga expression. If I took that attitude, I’d never make it through the class, it would be just too hard to ‘power through.’ I need to allow, to let that sense of bhakti well up in my chest and spread throughout my body, like the fire of the Holy Spirit, like a shot of whiskey when you are half-frozen, like…bhakti.
So there I was, this (probably lopsided) grin from ear to ear, lips closed, breathing deeply and happily. Forgotten for a precious moment were things like nerve roots and pain, problems and suffering. All bhakti – the one time in the day when I am pain-free, liberated from suffering, elevated beyond my normal perception and potential. Just flowin’…
I gloried in that movement like I would in a dance with a lover. I gloried in that safety like a wee, sleekit, cowering beastie hiding from wolves. I reveled in the ability to move and breathe like this, to move here and now, with these people, here in Boulder, Colorado, the semi-official center of the universe, of my universe. The center is at my core, at all of our cores, spreading outward in a wave of bhakti love. We perform yoga for all those who cannot, offer up the benefits of our practice for them.
We seek not enlightenment for ourselves, but liberation for others, the freedom from suffering. We pray that all beings experience joy, all beings experience peace, all beings experience love. No wonder I am grinning like a fool. : )
So yeah, I came to my mat like a lover. There we offered up our love and our hate, our strength and our vulnerability. Yeah, we made love: the best type. No messy stuff, no broken hearts, none of that stuff associated with the gross forms of love and relationship. No, the love we made was far more subtle. Some of us might not have even known we were doing it (but they felt the effects afterward, a release in Savasana like that after lovemaking, but even better – imagine that.
At the end of class, as we lay in final Savasana, our teacher sang us a holy mantra. She is a powerful woman, strong in heart and soul and body. She is a dedicated yogi, making herself an instrument of the Divine. And man, could you hear it. Her voice just rolled out of her, resonated as if she were playing a digeridoo or powerful wind instrument. The waves of peace and love and healing were palpable to me, washing over me in the sacred syllables of Sanskrit, cleansing me and purifying me. Wow.
I lay there for a while, my self forgotten. I was just a happy blob of light. It was beautiful, an eternity laying there, held and supported by the Earth, next to Megan, next to the universe. Seamless – no me, no boundaries. Not something separate, but a part of an organic whole. Mmmmm, yummy. Sublime. Perfect.
I finally left my mat like an astronaut returning to Earth, like a bird soaring above Earth. All problems solved – for the moment. Sure, they would return with a vengeance later, but I had reconnected with Center, with my core.
As I came out of my bliss enough to move into and through the world. I noticed Megan there, who got done at the same time. It was Megan! I was so happy, but wasn’t sure if she recognized me or knew me. When she spoke, I mumbled something vague and sophmoric, like ‘pardon me?’ (It takes me a few minutes to truly come back to Earth after a good class, and I hadn’t heard her greeting clearly).
As we neared the door, she mentioned the thoughts in my head and heart (yet those I would never give voice to, for fear of offending or being misunderstood). She said how nice it was that I always smiled so in class, and it was nice to flow with me. I could hear angels singing. She got it! Someone else got it! I could have kissed her right then. Someone who knew about this, someone who could feel me flow as I could feel her. Someone who got the sacred nature of what we were doing, what a communion it was, what a transformational bhatki experience it was.
Well, we wished each other a great day, and I floated into my shower. Okay, there was a guy component to this as well – a beautiful young woman had said that stuff to me. But more importantly than that, a fellow being of Light did. This woman is far too fine (fine, fine) not to have a partner in her life. That was okay. She knew. That was enough.
Afterward, I discovered she’d been teaching yoga in Longmont, and had started to teach in Boulder as well. Perfect. She was gonna be perfect for it. She knows bhakti, she knows about this communion. Of course, you don’t wanna freak out the new students with all this hippy talk, just focus on the external and as they breathe, they will discover this all for themselves. no need to tell them or preach to them. Just breathe and move and flow.
That is part of the magic of yoga, the whitest of white magic: no one needs to preach or proselytize, no words needed, Just breath. All will be revealed, from within, from above.
Yeah, i return to my mat like a lover returning to his Beloved. For in a sense, I am. In this union of body, mind, and spirit, I meet the Divine, experience it in ways I could have never imagined B.Y. (before yoga). Yeah, I return like a lover. And like a good lover, I will always return. Home. To my mat. To Center.