Saturday, January 23, 2010

I see you!

Yesterday was one of those “WTF?!” classes. You know, you’re squatting there in Eagle pose, thinking, “Yeah, baby, these joints were just built for Eagle!” and you’re feeling all in tune with your body. And then you start listening to your body instead of your ego, ‘cause that’s what the practice is supposed to make you do, and you’re, like, “What the f**k!?”

I was tired, achey, and nauseous throughout the class. And with no discernable cause--just the body being weird, is all. I only sat out one set of one posture, but I came up early in some of the others. Goodness… get in touch with the body and who knows what you’ll find!

I’ve been thinking lately about the senses and how they are used in class. One of the principles of meditation is to become increasingly aware of the body. I think one of the reasons folks of certain religions take issue with meditation is because in a religion like Christianity, there is a de-emphasis on the body in favor of more “moral” or “spiritual” thinking. (I don’t intend the quotes to come off as sarcastic—more as a nod to other ways of looking at things.) Maybe I’m way off-base here, but in the religion I grew up with, we were taught that the body was something that needed to be disregarded, de-emphasized, in order to attain a higher purity of thought.

Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but meditation insists on an awareness of the body. You can’t have real stillness without first really experiencing the function of the breath, the way the air moves around the arms, the spaces between the arch of the foot and the floor, etc. You can become so attuned to the tiniest detail.

On what I hope will be a related note, any vision-impaired yogis out there? Have any of you practiced with or taught a blind student? For the first time, I have a blind student in one of the writing classes I teach, and the experience has made me rethink so much about my teaching. Stuff like MLA format (i.e., where to put the header for your paper, font size, margins, etc) seems so trivial. It all rests on the assumption that a uniform visual experience is extremely important. How do you sell a person on the importance of attending to minute details they can’t experience? How do you sell a body on something that has nothing to do with the merit of the writing's content?

These questions are pretty specific and relevant only to my job, I suppose, but I’ve been thinking lately how a sightless person would fare in the yoga room. Obviously, the important instruction to “see yourself” in the mirror becomes moot. But I don’t think the “Look at yourself in the mirror” part is what makes the yoga effective. Taking in the appearance of the body through our eyeballs is not the yoga—it’s the attention and concentration on the body, the awareness, going beyond the ego. And you don’t need perfect vision to be able to do that.

I do think the whole discussion of the senses ties in together. While we work on focusing on what messages the senses give us, I am not sure it’s the ability to receive feedback in the form of touch, hearing, seeing, etc that does it.

I realize that this question treads on delicate territory—attempts for “abled” individual to consider the experiences of disabled individuals are always problematic. But still, it gives one pause :-) I’d love to hear your thoughts, challenges, whatev. ॐ


bikramyogachick said...

I agree with you! I don't think you can meditate without an awareness of the body. The more in tune we become with our body, our breath, the more able we are to find stillness. Very interesting post!

thedancingj said...

I think out of all the yoga classes I've ever been in, Bikram would be MOST suited for someone who was blind, because there are verbal cues for EVERYTHING! So theoretically you could do it blind and in the dark. Deaf is another story - but I have an awesome friend who teaches Bikram and also works at a school for the deaf, and she can teach a whole class in sign language (while talking for everyone else). Kick ass!!

Yolk E said...

Wow, talk AND sign. That is really impressive!

Yay, awareness :-)