There is a peculiar thing that happens to me sometimes when I am on the yoga mat. I will try to explain this phenomenon today.
Every once in a while, usually around 40-50 minutes or so into my practice, it’s as if time slows down around me, and everything just “clicks” together. I am incredibly alert and awake, but my mind is somehow empty – i.e. I’m not thinking any particular thought or idea. My breath is deep, really deep, and so rich and full that it’s as if I am inhaling liquid air. Every inch of my body feels alive, and all of my muscles, bones, every fiber of my body comes together into one unified whole. This is usually around the time that I just dive into something a little nutty like going from Lolasana into Handstand into Ashtavakrasana into Bakasana. And this is usually the time when I have some kind of breakthrough and pull off a transition or pose that I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for months.
Some might call this an adrenaline rush, or something akin to a runner’s high, or, more generally, what athletes describe as being “in the zone”. Whatever it is, it’s yoga for me. It’s when “it’s on”, so to speak. It’s when everything comes together, and nothing seems undoable, and everything in the world is a-okay. There are no worries when I get to this place in my practice. There is no fear. No judgment. Just clarity of mind, precision of movement, and steadiness of breath. I guess this is what’s meant by a “moving meditation”. I’m moving, quite vigorously at times, but it’s as if my movements are effortless, almost as if I’m a casual observer watching my own body swim through the asanas. And the breath takes on a life of its own, as it were, providing the thread that holds it all together.
I don’t know how to get into the zone like this. There is no formula. And I don’t want to become attached to getting there. All I know is that when I do get there, and it’s not every time that I practice yoga, I am acutely aware of my having arrived. My decision to teach yoga, I believe, has been informed in large part by my desire to show other people what it’s like to “get there” – i.e. to experience this moment, however brief, of a clear mind, an open heart, confidence and grace in movement, and calm breath. When this all comes together, I think we get a small taste of the essence of yoga. There are no mantras here. No chanting. No prayers. No God. No past. No future. No hope. No longing. No regret. No memory. No hate. No family. No friends. No enemies. No “I”. No frills. Just a mind, a body, and breath, firing on all cylinders, dancing together as one. It’s maybe what Zen Master Seung Sahn calls the “don’t know” mind, realized in the body as well as in the mind. What ever this is, when we can carry it out into the world, I think, is when we start to live yoga. I hope that over time, by the mercy of my teachers and through my own on-going practice, I can learn to take this peculiar and special experience I have on the yoga mat increasingly out into the world.