The Journey Towards Freedom
I decided to visit Mysore to practice with Yoga Teachers Acharya Venkatesha and Acharye Hema at Atmavikasa. Neglect of my physical body for some years had taken its toll, instead, my focus had been on delving deep into the practice of Vipassana meditation. Long hours of sitting on the cushion have been fruitful in many ways, but at the expense of my physical structure.
I knew it was becoming urgent to address some of the ailments that had begun to crop up. I have been experiencing quite a bit of unease in my body. Knowing it was a direct result of the excessive amounts of sitting- in meditation and in everyday life- I decided to devote one month of my India journey to paying attention and working with what I had been avoiding.
What I Learned From My Teachers At Atmavikasa
There are many layers to the question of what I have learned from my teachers, What Acharye Hema and Acharya Venkatesha have given me first and foremost is the opportunity to access more deeply the inner reaches of my innate intelligence.
Yoga acts as a doorway to a profound inter-knowledge that, if practiced with determination, can set you free. Learning how to work correctly is paramount. Quality instruction matters. Hema and Venkatesha are genuine Masters of Yoga in the tradition of classical Hatha. I need not look further.
Yoga is Much More Than Asana
1. Discipline Works.
It is impossible to see results without proper discipline. A combined effort with dedication is critical to recognizing success along the path.
2. Learn How to Work with Sensation Objectively.
When we decide to be objective in a situation, we are choosing to remain open to the possibilities. By making a choice-less observation, we give ourselves an opportunity to set ourselves free.
By taking the reactive mind out of the equation, we allow a complete presence of moment to spontaneously arise. A focus on the breath will calm the mind. Finding rhythm and harmony – or the flow- helps the body and mind to conserve energy during the practice which is critical.
So how to get to this point? Slowly. Gradually. By working patiently and ardently. By respecting and understanding that your body is unique to you! Respect it. Honor it. Love it for how it is now- but recognize, believe, live genuinely the possibility that change is possible. If there is any doubt whatsoever, you will find resistance.
Letting go of expectation is hard to do; this is the cornerstone any spiritual path. To allow things to be just ‘as they are’ in the present is a huge undertaking while simultaneously being ‘no big deal’. Perception is everything- always. We choose to respond accordingly.
Feeling the way through practice using the breath, taking the thinking mind out of the equation- this is paramount. In life, thinking gets in the way much of the time. Intuitiveness and timing are key. This skill comes with experience.
When we allow ourselves to let go, we give ourselves access to the inner reaches of our innate intelligence. The ability to completely relax into the moments of pause provides for total surrender of body and mind. To be attentive throughout the practice, aids in this process of rejuvenation.
The deeper one connects to what is happening with ‘self’ fully, the sooner this notion of ‘self’ will reveal itself as to what it is, ultimately, which is the realization of the ‘non-self’. A paradox, as usual. But this is how the nature of reality presents itself. It is that which binds us- or yolks us with God.
3. The Fundamental Law of the Universe is Impermanence.
Change is the only constant. Remembering this helps us to realize that sensations are arising only to pass away; moreover, they are moving with such great rapidity that it is just our perception of time that can sometimes get in the way. We can not always predict when the change will happen, perhaps we will notice something happening in the next moments, or possibly it will take a lifetime- we don’t know- but you can count on that eventually, change will indeed occur.
Remaining open to the experience is imperative. When we stay open to the possibilities, we give up resistance to what the moment brings. This attitude allows us to persist with kindness and a flexible mind through the experience. It is here, in this space, that we will discover a real, and lasting happiness that we will never find through an external source.
4. That Anything is Possible.
I arrived in Mysore stiff and with pain. In fact, I realized that, in actuality, much of my body was numb. But through the gradual letting go of ‘stuck patterns’ in my mind-body structure, I began to regain sensation. I now had come to understand that this absence of feeling had been preventing me from fully utilizing my body in real- time space.
As my muscles, ligaments, and joints began to respond to the work, I began to feel deep within my structure. Every movement, and each twitch bringing about a remembered sensation from long ago. A sensation to celebrate and cherish in its return, or one to let go of now in plain sight- an old worn thought or belief, and memories that had lodged deep inside brought to the surface for reflection. A release of expectation on who ‘i am’ or ‘am not.’
I never expected to find all of this through rediscovering the suppleness in my physical body that this practice has brought about. I am grateful.
5. Eat Bananas!
Bananas are nutritious and delicious. Enough said.
Eight years ago I spent one-month practicing Ashtanga yoga. It left me exhausted, sick, and not excited to make what I had learned a daily practice. I was hesitant to return to Mysore for another month-long intensive. Yoga has become commercialized to a certain extent here, with many shalas offering the similar programs. These ‘cookie- cutter’ practices that churn out injured yogis in the end with a certificate was not of interest.
But I was persistent in my quest to find a yoga shala offering me quality, authenticity, and connection. The intuition to practice with these particular was at the overwhelming internal urging – a knowing – that I MUST address what was happening in my body. With time, patience, and effort, the experience came to fruition. I had done my homework this time on what I was looking for in practice and a teacher.
With a strong will, deep devotion, and a continued effort, anything is possible. For me, this showed up in several ways. A revelation that I had been clinging to the erroneous belief about my stage in life being a limitation- that at 46 years old, it would not be possible ever to become more flexible. A releasing the belief that it would be impossible to work with athletic injuries that plagued from years of playing competitive sports. An assumption that, due to a congenital abnormality of the spine and foot, I would never be able to find evenness and flexibility in my body. Each one of these flawed notions has lodged itself deep within my already conditioned psyche, causing me disturbance.
Deeply held beliefs about one’s body can do that. I was not even The influence was striking. This revelation was my salvation. Every day, work to notice more of the subtleties- how holding these thoughts have affected my movement throughout the years. Restricted. As I consciously become more aware of these nuances, I am slowly letting go of ‘little bits’, eventually to be dissolved completely.
The feeling that is returning to some neglected areas of my body is startling- I am experiencing the type of rest that I have not felt since I was a kid. Unbelievable. A flowering of sensation flowing into these parts long forgotten. And a profound insight into the connection between the patterns that I was holding in my body and the direct relationship to the unconscious patterns I had been harboring in my mind.
Asana Is To Prepare Your Body and Mind for Sitting Still
I have worked extensively with this phenomenon through the practice of Vipassana. However, it has only been through my experience of using the body directly that I have been able to access and release a dearth of emotional trauma simultaneously. And what has been most beautiful about this process is that I now know that I will continue, with dedication, and determination.
I have scraped only the surface; it’s just the beginning, to be sure. Just a taste of what is to come, I know, as I continue to unearth the layers. A foray into what is possible ‘here and now’- with this body, at this time, and in this place. For it is through the physical practice, the performing the asana, through the pain, that we arrive at the secrets of the mind.. and the inner light of the heart. A ‘saṃskāra’ is just a concentration of emotion unobserved, brought to the surface and released through physical asana. I embrace the ‘pain’ of it all, for, in the end, I know that this releasing will ‘lighten’ me.
There is still work to be done, of course, as a practice takes practice! But, to observe and feel this level of progress in such a short amount of time, lends credibility to these teachers, the method and gives me momentum to persevere through the times of high resistance and difficulty.
Thank you. It is with great pleasure and infinite gratitude that I bow and humbly call you my teachers.