A momentary glance at yoga in the West…
As the world shrinks and common mythologies become antiquated, asana takes on new dimension.
During the time of our ancient ancestors, we lived among small numbers of people, and while the cosmos seemed infinite, the world around us remained confined and comprehensible. As technology increased our understanding of the world and our capacity for travel, we began to see our planet as large and diverse. We fought to preserve what we believed in and created rich stories to educate the younger generations on our understanding of the universe.
But times continue to change rapidly and the scientific west is increasingly saturated with the spiritual leaders and mythologies of the East. The ego is strong in the West and I watch as it begins to lash about, fighting the concept of egolessness and nonattachment. For those of us finding asana in the West it can be difficult to fully focus (or occupy) the mind with the rigid and formulaic practices that originated in India. Many of the newer forms of asana pulse with an animalistic intensity. For me they more directly EMBODY the pulse of kundalini shakti.
Nearly every form of yoga connects me to the subtleties of my true life force. I am grateful for the forms of yoga, like Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow, which allow my body to dance to the sacred pulse within.
Asana Practice: This entry was inspired by a lovely class taught by Mary Taylor (lover and asana partner to Richard Freeman, www.yogaworkshop.com), in the traditional ashtanga form.
I feel so grateful to have learned yoga initially in a form connected to India. I believe in first connecting with the past before engaging in the moment, s0 that we can more richly understand the soil and cobble stone we walk on. I first learned ashtanga yoga before I moved on to more contemporary forms like Shiva’s Prana Flow.
I recently watched a documentary by Joseph Campbell, titled “The Hero’s Journey,” within which, he described how many of the world’s populations throughout the past, have shared a similar message. A message that informs the listener about the divine and how to reach enlightenment.
Joseph discusses how the Mayan, for example, created a creation myth that helped describe true spiritual awakening. He also described how the science and technical understandings of any day in history are woven in to the mythology of that time. This is an important point. This provides an explanation for why today’s people often find it difficult to connect with and understand the mythologies of the past. Creation and other spiritual stories throughout time were not describing historic truths. Rather, they are using their understanding of reality to create an elaborate and aesthetic backdrop for the universal story of spiritual awakening and self growth.
It is my belief that as we begin to see the world as a unified whole, a new mythology must be called forth in order to help guide individuals of our time. We can save time for our fellow brothers and sisters by translating the mythologies and teachings of the past.
The modern western world moves quickly and has a willful and wild understanding of their physical bodies. In order to develop an equally strong spiritual understanding, it is important to develop physical outlets for the expression of the divine. It is my belief that the west will wake up the fastest by advancing physical embodiment practices that are dynamic expression of the divine. (See a video of Shiva Rea’s Trance dance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRou8B31Hic).
Lesson Learned: When an old form of yoga feels like simply a whisper, and your heart yearns for a heave beat, connect to your ancestors. Their whisper will teach you how to sing when the time is right.