Yesterday morning, I had a really great experience in the second series backbends. Perhaps because of the approach of winter, the environment in the practice room feels very still and quiet (maybe because the birds and insects of the summer and fall have departed?). When I got into Dhanurasana, I could literally hear the silence of the room. I'm not quite sure how to describe this, but it feels like I am being submerged in the silence that is all around me, and I am swimming through it. This submerged feeling definitely added a very unique quality to kapotasana. There was still the usual emotional and physical upheavals in the pose, but the silence enveloping the pose seems to make it a little less intense, almost like one is doing the pose underwater.
This experience prompted me to look for some writings that might shed some light on it. I ended up re-reading a brief passage from B.K.S. Iyengar's Light on Life. I really love Mr. Iyengar's writing style, and his description of various aspects of the journey of practice. It's really interesting how so many things that he says about the practice is totally applicable to ashtanga, even though there is this widely perceived difference between Iyengar and Ashtanga in the yoga community. I thought I'll share his words with you here:
"When you do the asana correctly, the Self opens by itself; this is divine yoga. Here the Self is doing the asana, not the body or brain. The Self involves each and every pore of the skin. It is when the rivers of the mind and the body get submerged in the sea of the core that the spiritual discipline commences. There is no special spiritual discipline. When there is passivity, pensiveness, and tranquility of body and mind, do not stick there, but proceed. Here the spiritual experience in yoga commences... what I teach is spiritual practice in action... I use the body to discipline the mind and to reach the soul. Asanas, when done with the right intention, will help to transform an individual by taking the person away from an awareness of just the body toward the consciousness of the soul. Indeed, as I often say, body is the bow, asana is the arrow, and the soul is the target.
An asana must be righteous and virtuous. By righteous I mean that it must be true. You must not cheat or pretend. You must fill every inch of your body with the asana from your chest and arms and legs to the tips of your fingers and toes so that the asana radiates from the core of your body and fills the entire diameter and circumference of your limbs. You must feel your intelligence, your awareness, and your consciousness in every inch of your body.
By virtuous I mean that is must be done with the right intention, not for ego or to impress but for the Self and to move closer to God. In this way the asana is a sacred offering. We are surrendering our egos. This is supreme devotion to God (Isvara pranidhana)...
In this way, you will work from your heart, not your brain, to create harmony. The serenity in the body is the sign of the spiritual tranquility. As long as you do not feel the serenity in the body, in each and every joint, there is no chance for emancipation. You are in bondage. So while you are sweating and aching, let your heart be light and let it fill your body with gladness. You are not only becoming free, but you are also being free. What is not to be glad about? The pain is temporary. The freedom is permanent."