The Flower of Yoga

Tree pose beside flowering eldersFor many years, I see-sawed between practicing sitting meditation and asana practice. I was gaining insight into my Self with both kinds of practice. Mind, Body, Heart, were all developing, albeit unevenly.

I could (and did) spend hours a day in sitting practice, to the point of neglecting the needs of my body, my family, my friends. I would continue this way until the niggle within grew, strongly suggesting that I was neglecting my asana practice. Then I’d kick up my asana practice. I was growing more and more comfortable simply being in my body, as well as growing stronger and more supple. New levels blossomed in poses I’d thought were unattainable for me, and so, working even harder, I’d push forward, sometimes to the point of bodily injury.

Both practices yielded many benefits, but I was left feeling chronically unsatisfied with my practice and with myself. If asked about my home practice, I would say as much because I truly felt as if it hardly existed. A sense of incompleteness in my life never lifted. I was a bud that refused to bloom.

Gradually, over time, I developed curiosity about why I couldn’t seem to settle. Was I more of a meditator, or more of a yogini? As I did this, I asked myself questions about what was most needed to fulfill my dharma, my reason for being here now.

The answer led me deeper into meditation in daily life. Meditation in asana practice. Yoga in the kitchen. Meditation while unloading the dishwasher. Yoga in the shower. Meditation while weeding. Walking meditation. Yoga in the garden.

Learning to connect the messages from my senses, the outer world, with my mind, the inner world — I glimpse union. The unfolding of the flower of yoga.

B.K.S.Iyengar tells us in his insightful book, The Tree of Yoga, The Classic Guide to Integrating Yoga Into Your Daily Life, that the flower of yoga is Dhyana or Meditation. It is the union of the outer path of our asana (messages from our senses) and the inner path of asana (messages from our mind). They must both become balanced. When imbalanced, and we’ve all seen advanced practitioners fall this way, even though they’ve practiced long and achieved a high level of ability in sitting meditation or yoga asana, they do not realize the calm bliss that comes only from the full flowering of yoga.

As I (happily!) settle into deeper union of life and yoga, paths heretofore unseen come into view. The garden blossoms. There are more flowers. The journey continues :-)

2 thoughts on “The Flower of Yoga”

  1. I love seeing you enjoy this pose. Try as I might, it is one I am still unable to do. You inspire me.

  2. Trish, Have you tried standing at a right angle to a wall and allowing your bent knee to touch the wall for support? OR stand facing a wall, arm’s length away, so that you can touch the wall with the fingers of one hand? OR place a dot on the wall in front of you and afix your gaze softly on the spot (we call that your drishti)? OR take the bent leg foot only a few inches up your shin, or even lower. Don’t worry about turning the bent knee out — that is a late adjustment. More time in a pose that is aligned, though doesn’t look like the final pose will be more beneficial. Gradually, you may find that the bent leg is able to be placed higher up, maybe even on the opposite thigh AND then you can practice away from the wall!

    Tree pose, Vrksasana, encompasses a glorious energy. Practicing it first thing in the morning (some of my students swear by practicing Tree immediately after getting out of a shower while they are sans clothing, the skin-to-skin contact is helpful for keeping the bent knee foot in place) can be a beautiful way to raise your energy and grow more centered/balanced at the same time. Now that’s a Good Morning!

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