On an overcast February day, my move toward balasana (child’s pose) began easily enough; “breathe into your truth, breathe into your center,” she said.
The words moved me like someone taking my hands and gently walking me backward into a calm refreshing lake. I would have welcomed this after a slow and voggy day; I mean a day full of vog – volcanic gas cloud residue – suffocating everyone within miles of my writing desk. Things just weren’t happening. I blamed the vog.
Like anyone, I’m involved in making a living and positioning myself for security. I hope for happiness, and peace for myself and extended family. And like others, I want to register my mark in the world and hope my contributions help move the human family in a compassionate direction. I’ve had a good education and learned my civics lessons, so I also embrace my role in helping to alleviate suffering of those less fortunate than myself.
In my best efforts to make a mark in the short time I have to walk the Earth, I’m required to sift through ever-increasing complex data and stimuli that comes to me through my senses. Like all yogi’s living in a material world, I’m obliged to select what I’ll take-in or reject based on my priorities and values.
HARD CHOICES IN AN INTERCONNECTED WORLD
A yogi’s awareness of the world’s interconnectedness leaves him/her with sometimes agonizing choices over what course of action is least-harmful. One approach to this post-modern dilemma is to adopt the ethical creed of non-malificence, or do no harm, a part of the Hippocratic Oath. This oath is a moral compass intended to direct the actions of caretakers and physicians.
But in our day, it’s clear that there are very few – if any – actions that we can take that won’t cause at least some harm somewhere. In a world like this, even if we want to remain whole and peaceful, it’s nearly impossible to do. Once we are born, our presence begins to affect all life for better or worse.
Yet while it is no longer possible to return to a state of pure blamelessness, the pose of a child, at just the right time in yoga class can move us physically to a position more akin to non-malificence, an innocent posture symbolizing helplessness and surrender.
Facilitated into child’s pose by the ancient grace of yogi’s near and far, I’m able to step-away for a moment from my efforts at registering my brand in this world. In class, my move back in time begins with my teacher’s instructions.
BACK TO WHOLENESS
“Find child’s pose,” she said. I willingly roll down to embody balasana.
“Connect again with your breath and know you are back to the beginning . . . your truth, your inner child, your innocence.”
In this shift to yoga’s blameless collapse: knees wide, hips down, and forehead to the mat, I am brought about again like the ship in high seas to that safe harbor where we inhabited an unadulterated and guiltless heart, unaware that our best choices might come down to doing no harm. My forehead is down to the one pose everyone has shared. In that moment, I’ve gone back for one luminous moment – to the only time I was truly whole. Returned to, in the words of William Wordsworth:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar
Not in entire forgetfulness
And not in utter nakedness –
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.
WHO WE ARE
I know what the 2016 Yoga Alliance survey, conducted in partnership with Public Affairs research firm Ipsos, and Yoga Journal, says about us yoga practitioners. Link:
Yoga practitioners, defined as those practicing at least once a week, tend to be more benevolent than the average, volunteering their time and money for worthy causes; 79% report giving back to the community, compared to 59% of non-practitioners. We tend to be more aware of the effects of our choices, more conscious of health as a defining value; over half say they live green, eat sustainably, and donate. Yogis tend to be responsible citizens interested in furthering their education on yoga and other subjects; 99% of yoga studio owners believe it is very important for teachers to continue learning through more training.
We want to close our day with a clear conscience; this doesn’t mean we’re faultless in word or deed, but we hope to retire knowing that each day we did our best with the choices we were given.
In yoga we go back to that pose of innocence, that breath of truth, and we’re gratified when our choices are not limited to bad, worse, and worst. This is the true gift of the simplest, yet maybe most overlooked pose. It reminds us we’ve come from afar in peace. This is no small gift in the middle of strong currents that push us into a raging seas.
“Breathe your truth,” I hear her say. I follow the words and I’m happy to be going the right direction; moving back to child’s pose when my life was not defined by keys and responsibilities.
She reminds us again, “Come back to your breath, your child.”
I breathe in fully, put my forehead to the mat, and I rest in the innocent age. I breathe out to offer peace and my full truth. I hear a lone voice offer Namaste, and with the gathered chorus, return the blessing. Then we rise, and one by one, slip away into a tumultuous sea.
To read the full article please download our Asana Journal App or purchase Issue 158 February 2016.