First, a little practice report. Did full primary and second series up to pincha mayurasana this morning. The practice was great. I felt this very intense and nice (yes, intense and nice) stretch in the radial (outer) side of my quads while in Tittbhasana C. It's definitely a little muscle that most postures can't get into. Felt really good.
I am very happy and grateful to be able to do my practice every morning, especially at this time of great fear, anxiety and panic. I sense this both in the lives of people around me, and in the news about the world at large. For one, there is the fear that has been generated (no pun intended) about the nuclear reactor in Japan (for more details, see Claudia's very informative recent post on this). I know nothing about nuclear plants, so I shall say nothing more about this here.
On a more personal level, I also feel fear in the lives of people around me. A couple of days ago, a friend was sharing with me his fears about his career. The details are too involved to go into here (moreover, I want to respect the privacy of others); basically, his present supervisor is leaving for another job, and they are in the process of hiring a new supervisor. After looking at all the credentials of all the candidates who are interviewing for the position, he realized that all of them come from highly competitive backgrounds. Because of this, he's really worried that if one of them gets the position, he will be really hard on him and demand much more from him performance-wise. Gosh, and I said I wasn't going to go into details? Well, at least I didn't name names, or specify which field my friend is in :-)
I don't know what to make of all this. On the one hand, I totally empathize (or at least try very hard to empathize) with what people are going through; I probably would be feeling the same things if I were in my friend's position. But on the other hand, I just can't help feeling that there's something a little... self-indulgent about this kind of fear. You are worrying about what a hypothetical future supervisor is going to demand of you (and about whether you hypothetically will be able to meet this hypothetical supervisor's expectations)? When there are some very actual problems going on in the world that are probably much more worthy of attention?
What has all this to do with yoga? Well, I think the cool thing about yoga, at least for me, is that it helps me to get some perspective on stuff around me. I totally empathize with my friend, because I have had mornings when I would wake up with all kinds of frantic negativities about all kinds of hypothetical situations. But the practice gives me the ability to really see that what is hypothetical is really just hypothetical, and that no value can be created from worrying about things that may or may not happen. More importantly, the practice puts me in a position where my actions are in sync with what I can see. And the key to this is even inhalation and exhalation. I think Mr. Iyengar said somewhere that breath is important in yoga practice, because breath is the interface between our gross physical bodies and our energetic bodies/nervous systems. This is why yoga practice is not just positive thinking; I can think all I want and try to psyche myself into not worrying about hypothetical things. But thinking alone is useless, unless I can find a way to get my body and nervous system to actualize what I intellectually think and understand. And even inhalation and exhalation in the yoga practice (together with the postures and drishti; basically, the whole tristana package) is what enables me to bring my mind and body into sync with each other, so that I can more readily translate what I intellectually understand (the futility of worrying about hypotheticals) into action (actually not worrying about hypotheticals, and taking more concrete, positive action that will better myself and the world around me).
In other news: I am also trying to get my friend to do yoga.
May the Force (and not hypothetical worries) be with you.