As I’ve mentioned, I’m a new yoga student – very new – very, very far away from the archetypal, experienced yoga practitioners one often sees in books and videos (ok, maybe not these guys). I’m inspired, and do realize the journey will be a long one. However, is the journey a straight path? Does it have twists and turns? What IS the endpoint anyway? and how do I know I’m there?
According to Patanjali‘s yoga sutras:
“Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness” (I.2 yogah cittavritti nirodhah).
This is echoed in David Gordon White’s The Alchemical Body (Chapter 9):
Reduced to its simplest terms, yoga (“yoking”) is concerned with impeding movement, with the immobilization with all that is mobile within the body.
Ultimate stillness. The kind demonstrated by the elderly yogi who was able to voluntarily slow his heart for 8 days (covered here). So this is where the practice ends – in physical and mental stillness – awareness with stillness.
More compassionate? More patient? Healthier? Perhaps this comes with the stillness? My gut and experience so far says yes, this is where I want to go. Not to withdraw from life, my family and friends like a lone yogi on a mountaintop, but to acquire a more peaceful and patient disposition that helps myself and others to better cope with life’s twists and turns.
However, David Gordon White’s The Alchemical Body suggests that the pathway is anything but a straight downhill ride to samadhi. There are myriad natural bodily desires and mental tendencies that push against this pathway, making it an arduous journey where the student can be bucked sideways while fighting against the tide. As DGW interprets the ancient texts in Chapter 9:
One first immobilizes the body through the postures; next one immobilizes the breaths through diaphragmatic retention; one then immobilizes the seed through the “seals” [bhandas]; and finally one immobilizes the mind through concentration on the subtle inner reverberations of the phonemes.
What a difficult, even heroic undertaking the immobilization of the body constitutes, yet what fantastic results it yields! For immobilization leads to reversal, reversal to transformation, and transformation is tantamount to bodily immortality and, precisely, to the [supposed] supernatural ability to transform, reverse, or immobilize whatever one desires in the physical world (siddhi).
Reversal? Transformation? Much to explore here in the years to come.
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