In our first restorative class for December at The Fitness Room I thought we’d begin to infuse the entire practice with a greater understanding of Yoga Nidra which is the meditative practice we enjoy in the classes final 20mins. How to do this? Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice of ‘dynamic sleep’ derived from techniques in tantric texts and brought in a constructed way to the west in the 1960’s by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. So where do you begin? How do you deepen the sense of something that has developed through years of experience, self study and scholarly study?
It seemed that an initial step could be made by introducing the tantric concept of non-dualism. My own lineage Hatha is clearly dualistic Ha/the sun tha/the moon and yoga the yolk or union of sun/moon, masculine/feminine etc. So I thought I’d begin with the familiar notion of opposites and draw them in together to reveal the whole – then take the leap into non-dualism as the divine manifesting in all.
The class began in sivasana, the delicious pose where you lie comfortably on your back allowing yourself a moment of utter abandon. At the beginning of the class it can act as a release point for your day, your night or the impending day ahead. It allows you a moment to observe the breath and read what is happening in the body. So I asked the class to release their upright posture down to the mat, to close the eyes if comfortable, relax all the muscles and suggest to their mind ‘here on the ground I am’…….whilst a voice offered “connected, warm, supported by the earth below. Each part of your body supported. Beginning at the right big toe bring attention upward through the right side of the body…the left side of the body…the centre of the body…settle into the centre of the body…notice where you have settled – where is this centre for you: spine, abdomen, navel heart centre? Be aware of this centre and then bring attention to your non-physical sense of yourself, where do you feel the centre of you? …Are these places the same? Different?
Begin to breathe as if you are breathing into this centre of yourself and exhale as if exhaling from this centre. Inhale oxygen merging with prana/vital life force…exhale and feel the energy freeing as you let go…know that the ultimate state is available to you…divine awareness…sacred energy…shakti…open beyond any limitations you cling to within…”
And then it struck me to thread through this opening practice and the following asanas to feel into the right side, the left side, the centre, the top, the soles of the feet and realise there are no actual physical borders with sign posts declaring these divisions. What there is, is the whole of the body …that familiar refrain when we are in Yoga Nidra and the voice has taken us through a full rotation of consciousness and repeats either “the whole of the body” several times or “together”, “the whole of the right leg and the whole of the left leg together”
In the actual class I began to use the word ‘borders’, “there are no borders between the left and the right, only what we perceive, feel the right and left of your posture, hold steady at the centre – hold steady the whole body” and the class transformed into a class ‘yoga without borders’**. When I came home I thought how wonderful if both personally and as a world we could have such clarity, such awareness, such inner security that we could ‘see’ that borders are constructs…limiting constructs – that cause no end of conflict within our own minds committing us to the same old behavioral cycles that do not serve us personally or worse commit communities to fear, blood shed and terror.
**Yoga without Borders existed formally before my little non-dual epiphany as www.yogawithoutborders.com a humanitarian and service organisation.