“When we are swimming in a river and cannot see the bank, it is difficult to notice the current. We are moving so much with the river that we may scarcely see its flow. But if we go to the bank where we have firm ground it is much easier to see how the river is flowing.” -T.K.V. Desikachar
After testing the waters of Newport Beach I’m officially back in Big Bear! As this is my first blog, I want to address my return to Big Bear and why I’ve come back so completely convinced of the transformational power of yoga.
A primary goal of yoga asana practice (the postures) is to gain new perspective. For example, most of the things I’ve learned about my imbalanced standing posture have not come from standing. It was in Headstand (Sirsasana) that I discovered my tendency to sink into my right hip more than my left. In Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) I learned that I externally rotate the right leg and not the left. When we place the body into different positions and turn our gaze inward, we take ourselves out of our patterns and tunnel vision. We begin to see.
Similarly, when we put the entire body into different environments we learn about ourselves. (As long as we are willing to learn…) For me, moving to Newport Beach brought to center a number of personal characteristics that I had managed to ignore during my time in Big Bear. Amongst many other things, I realized the extent of my impatience, cynicism, and dependency on environment.
When I first moved to Newport Beach I was flipping out in traffic, extremely critical of the materialistic and consumerist lifestyle, and feeling claustrophobic in the tightly packed city of cement and human flesh. Additionally, I had left behind many of the exterior things that had brought me happiness in Big Bear (e.g. Rock climbing, nature, a lack of traffic… ). My attitude swayed towards the negative, and brought out the worst in me.
Since I couldn’t find happiness in my surroundings, I decided to turn inward. I began a yoga daily practice, studied yogic texts, studied myself, and began my 200-hour yoga teacher training. I realized that all of the internal chatter, frustrations and insecurities I was feeling weren’t “me.” They were merely the river of the mind that my true SELF (the purusha) was caught up in. Through the practice of yoga, my ego dissipated and suddenly it seemed downright silly to be frustrated, anxious and angry. These negative emotions were just a distraction from my inner peace. They were the fast paced, bubbling river I was floating in. But, thanks to yoga, I had grasped the limb of a tree, and began watching these negative fluctuations of the mind stream by me.
With perspective, comes choice. I never thought I was unhappy. I was in a river! I was just floating down and it was cool, fun and full of interesting twists and turns. However, once I grabbed that branch on the shore, I realized that the current was picking up speed and danger lay ahead. Suddenly, I had a choice. Do I release my grip and continue to let my emotions and ego carry me along, or do I pull myself out of these dangerous waters so as to gain control and liberation?
Newport Beach gave me the first glimpse of the river bank and extended a branch out to me. Yoga represented the decision to climb up that branch. Now, on the shore, I find myself in Big Bear.
Yoga has changed my posture, improved my strength and flexibility, increased my stamina and dramatically affected my lung capacity. However, all of these are but steps on the bank towards what yoga has really given me: a degree of freedom. (Perspective) -> (Choice) -> (Freedom).
I am FAR from perfecting any aspect of yoga. But as opposed to remaining stagnant, a slave to a current of nonsense dragging me along; I am dynamic, master of my own life. It takes work to pull yourself up to the top of that bank; there is a lot going against you. But once you’re up, boy what a view.