02 Yoga notes


How do we enter a Yoga class? How do we leave? Seemingly very simple questions, but let’s take a moment to think about this.

As such, how we enter and leave the shala will greatly determine the benefits of our Yoga practice. When we first walk into the studio, already we have made a choice, a decision, and whether consciously or not, an intention (or, samkalpa as we discussed last time in Yoga Notes) about taking the time and inhabiting the space of a session of Yoga. More often than not, the hardest part of a Yoga class is merely walking through the front door. What was the process that led you to the class? What preparation did you need to make in your daily schedule? But, more importantly, who are you when you do cross the threshold of the shala?

Although the shala may not be considered a sacred space per se, it is a space of reverence. We can revere the sanctity of each other’s intentions and decisions to make Yoga part of our lives. It is then not a place for the mundane of the cell phone ringing, nor the marketplace of work, but rather a liminal space of sharing and mutual respect. A place where we can shut off the phones and the chatter of the busy world around us, and a chance to share a moment on our mats, both as individuals and as a group.

When we come in, even if we are in a hurry, respect for this space of others is paramount. Not dropping our mats with a loud ‘thwap’ (especially if we are running late, as we all do at times), nor making last-second phone calls then can nurture the reverence for others. It is a time of arrival on our mat, our personal space. However, if we keep our practice solely on the mat, it may only serve as a cardio-pulmonary band-aide, a temporary solution. Yet, if we translate our full experience of the breath, our in-spiration (which means in-hale), then we can have a richer reward from our Yoga practice.

So, we can arrive, as in life, with an inhale, an inspiration, and during the practice we are able to mediate our breath between the inhale and the exhale, and then when we come to the end of the practice, the departure, we have a full circle of experience, which culminates in Savasana. Although Savasana is the ‘corpse pose’, keep in mind, it is still a pose, an asana, and needs the same attention of any other posture.

Savasana is our metaphorical state of ex-piration, or death. It is no wonder that nirvana literally means extinguishing, as in a breath or a flame, and thus the other end of the spectrum of Life and Death begun with the inspiration of the inhale. In Savasana we experience a moment of surrender, or acceptance. We surrender and accept the support of the mat below us, which in turn is supported by the floor of the shala, which in turn is supported by the ground, the Earth and further by the Cosmos at large. At that moment, there is no separation, no discrimination between you and the universe. On the moment of your departure from the class, you have actually just truly arrived.

See you on the mat,

Robert has a PhD in Comparative Literature from The University of Texas and has integrated his Sanskrit and Philosophy backgrounds with a physical Yoga practice for over 20 years.

Join Robert each week for classes at Radiant Light Yoga Brussels AND ANTWERP