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The yogis in my Village Elders Yoga class cracked up this morning when I suggested they find joy in the pose. “What is holding you back from being happy in Camel (Ustrasana)?”

“JOY–you gotta be kidding me!!” Al asked incredulously and laughed harder. I suggested he widen his knees so that his shoulders wouldn’t need to work so much &/or curl his toes under to raise his heels a bit higher. Still he laughed……laughter is good; I join in what has now become a near hysterical class. I see their point. How CAN we find bliss while the body screams for mercy? Yoga is not about adding tension to lives already strained thin and brittle. BUT, when I feel as if my back is going to split into a hundred little pieces or my quads are going to rip off of my torso, I am NOT thinking “joy” AT ALL. I am probably cursing the teacher (as Al probably was this morning) &/or hyperventilating.

However, I believe it was the SUFI poet RUMI who said that laughter is the voice of God. I love to hear that voice. Laughter is always a release and the goddess knows we all need release! The act of chortling your way through a pose that is hard for you is an effective means of taking your mind off of your pain. It’s a release. It’s speaking in God’s voice.

While my students continued working the pose as if inebriated, I said that we find joy in yoga poses the same way that we find joy in any other activity. “How do you find joy in weeding your garden, or washing the dishes, or grading student essays, or….?” It was a little sneaky since Al had already told me that he’d wrenched his back over the weekend while working in his garden.

Back to the asana: First we release any excess tension. I had noticed the muscles along the right side of my neck tensing- unnecessarily-so I sent breath and softness into that area. I recognized that THAT strain was not going to improve my pose, but would give it a blocked quality and would keep me from finding SUKHA.

Since a major intention of my practice is to cultivate SUKHA, I went for the release. Figuring that my students would also appreciate more bliss in their lives, I blathered on a bit. “You know that some people don’t enjoy the sense of stretch in their muscles. They NEVER find Sukha in yoga practice. But you all have been coming for several years, so I know that you do-at least at at times- enjoy the stretch. What I am suggesting now is that you simply focus on what you love and release what you don’t.”

Heads were nodding and as students released from Camel into Child Pose, I noticed a satisfied look on their faces.

I LOVE sharing yoga and am ever grateful for this gift in my life. My intention for this blog is to deepen our practice as we learn to live our yoga. May the words expressed be of benefit to the readers and authors.

How does one find joy in a yoga pose? How does one find joy in life? Through experiencing this moment as it exists. By releasing the grip of unnecessary tension, including the tension created by attachment to the past and future, attachment to a fixed identity. Letting go of expectations and judgments.
Letting go the hold of pain as well as the hold of happiness, knowing that every emotion is ephemeral and the seeds of every emotion’s opposite feeling exists simultaneously.

today’s mantra: BE JOY.
To paraphrase Gandhi’s famous quotation, Be the Joy you wish to see in the world.

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  1. The Laughing Yogini

    Village Elders Yoga is sponsored by Grape Belt Seniors in Fredonia NY. The class is held in the old St. Anthony School on Cushing Street. It is geared to folks 50 + in age, though *youngsters* are welcome. A donation of $4.00 is asked, but not required. You are welcome to bring your own mat or bolster, but they are unnecessary as all supplies are provided, just wear loose clothing and come with an empty stomache. We meet on Tuesday mornings at 10 AM. Bring a friend!

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