Yoga Perspective

Kyiya yoga translates as "the yoga of action”. Simply put, it involves three forms of activity: tapas, or fiery dedication to practice; svadyaya, or self study; and isvara pranidhana, surrender of the outcome of one’s efforts to the greater good.

Svadyaya, in current terms, often refers to self observation. Patanjali, who codified the Yoga Sutras or philosophy, intended for students of yoga to study with a guru or teacher. Through the teacher’s influence and the power of his enlightened being, the student might hope to become fully aware of her motivations, hindrances and deep conditioning.

But what is a modern day urban yogi to do in order to practice self study? Especially with the draw of summer sun and the promise of some idle days?

It’s a wonderful time to include investigation of such powerful texts as Motherpeace, by Vicki Noble, which is based on the divination practices of the tarot .Vicki and her collaborator, Karen Vogel who designed the cards, investigated the ancient arcana of prepatriarchal life.

The first card in their deck is the Fool. The card shows a child walking on its hands, "unselfconsciously happy to be alive.” The child represents the soul which does not yet reflect upon itself, "The spark of life which reincarnates again and again until it awakens to itself."

Balancing on its hands, the child sees the world inverted. Believing in itself, it trusts the body to sustain it. This is sacred play. Like the Joker in a deck of cards or the Court Jester in medieval times, the Fool is free to speak the truth and trust in the innocence of self revelation.

Today, we can invoke the Fool in ourselves to move freely in the body so that our yoga practice becomes child’s play. Those poses which take us home to the child who swung from tree limbs, who somersaulted, rolled on the grass, hung from the monkey bars by the backs of the knees, sat so quietly that she could not be detected, are calling to be the Fool.

Standing on one’s hands, also called full arm balance or adho mukha vrksasana, is a pose which often evokes a fearful response in adults. We’ve been exploring it in class recently. We talk about our fears of falling, hurting ourselves and possible crashing into others. Women, more than men, feel unsure of their upper body strength. And in facing and expressing that fear, we watch it change. One day last week, a 57 year old woman did her first hand stand. She had never been an athletic child and yet her taste of the pose was girlish in the freedom she experienced. Her face lit up with joyful appreciation of her body/mind’s capacity to support her. The pose ignited her in divine play. She knew herself in an entirely new way. She had "reincarnated” or given birth to fresh capacities.

When we let go of the need to control, improve, strive and "get right" our yoga and surrender the outcome of our practice, we are practicing kriya yoga. It does not mean that we abandon effort. It means we have learned the world is full of losses we can’t stop and joys we can’t keep. And in the midst of that fundamental learning, we embrace the moments of full-on being.