Life has been compared to many things – a dance, a box of chocolates, a battlefield, no wait that was “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benetar, I get these things mixed up. Anyway, I’ve stayed in an ashram for a two week program and what brilliant insight do I have to offer? Not much.
I’ve learned the yoga is more than physical exercises. There are 4 types of yoga paths determined by the Bhagavad Gita. They are Karma Yoga – yoga of action, Bhakti yoga – yoga of devotion through chanting, Jnana yoga – yoga of the study of the scriptures and Raja yoga – yoga by practicing the asanas (yoga poses) and meditation. That’s a really simple summary.
In the ashram, we focused a lot on the raja yogic path and through it all, I’ve decided my relationship with the headstand is a metaphor for life – deep no? Stick with me here.
The headstand has been my challenge, my dream and my nemesis for the duration of my ashram stay. It is the posture that I simply cannot get. At first, it was a healthy relationship but than as others caught on one by on my mind became my enemy.
“You are so slow at learning these poses.”
“You’ll never do this. You aren’t flexible enough -too solidly build like a donkey not a gymnast.”
Then I would try to counter these negative statements by compensating and thinking things such as . . .
” It’s okay I’m definitely better at rope skipping than that lady.”
Bottom line, my mind was filled with very unyogic competitive thoughts. The headstand became a constant struggle which I was always flinging myself into, sweating purfusely and flipping out of it crashing to the floor. I’ve suffered many bruises as long the way.
Now if this were a Hollywood move, I would be played by Jennifer Lawrence and would be a dancer who is seriously injured in a car accident. To recover, I go to India and practice yoga finding regaining my physical strength and a new spiritual strength thanks to my new yoga guru Morgan Freeman. My struggle would be defined by the headstand and in the climax of the movie (after a lot of training to a new dance mix of “Eye of the Tiger”) I would poise myself into the perfect headstand and throw in the Scorpion pose while all the others in the ashram would stare in awe. Of course this would all be in slow motion to “Chariots of Fire.” Then I would go back to America and win the ultimate dance off of good versus evil!
If this were a Bollywood movie, I (played by Katrina Kaif) would be a powerful lawyer living in Mumbai who goes to the ashram to get back to my roots. At the ashram, I’d meet a handsome but poor Indian man (Hrithik Rosham) from a lower caste working at the ashram. He would help me to discover the secrets of the Vedda texts and ultimately conquer the headstand. He woud propose to me and we’d have a love marriage despite our religious and class differences and all would be well with the world. The movie would end with a colourful dance number in the monsoon rain and you can bet there would be a lot of Bhangra shrugging.
However, this is not the movies; this is real life (which is technically an illusion but let’s not get that deep.) In real life, balance in all things is necessary. The middle path is what we must follow. This knowledge was passed down by the Buddha but unfortunately he didn’t accompany it with a step-by-step manual. The tricky part is finding out what the middle path is for each one of us.
Back to my ridiculous headstand metaphor. In order to get into the headstand I must give up control and be at peace with whatever results come. I must shed the ego and be mindful as I find the perfect point of balance between my elbows and hands. I also must accept help along the way. Everyone needs a spotter from time to time. Lastly, I must be kind and loving towards myself and all creation for good measure:)
So I’m leaving the ashram without having achieved the headstand but I’m amazed at how refreshed I feel. I’ve gained a lot of perspective and hope I will find a way to incorporate regular yoga practice into my daily life. Then one day I’m sure I will be doing the headstand and maybe they’ll make a movie about it.
Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanti. (Om Peace, Peace, Peace)