Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Yoga Matrix, Yoga Crucible

Richard Freeman, a few years back, developed a yoga teaching series I enjoyed called "Yoga Matrix." In those teachings about yoga, he describes the human body as a matrix for transformation, including spiritual transformation.

He explained that the etymological root for matrix is the same as those for matrimony and matriarch. They are all related to the word mater, which means mother.

This name suggests that exploration of the human body is the fertile nurturing environment, the breeding ground, in which tremendous personal growth and change can take place.

In my last Daily Yoga Tip I promised I would write today about "the Mother of all Poses," salamba sarvangasana, shoulder stand.

In a very real sense, shoulder stand has earned this title because it is such a fruitful pose.

Its name gives a hint about why it's called the mother of all poses. Salamba sarvangasana does not translate as "shoulder stand." It literally means "supported whole body pose." The name itself communicates that this pose is so powerful it has beneficial effects on the whole body (not just the shoulders).

Christy Turlington reminds us that salamba sarvangasana is also known as the Mother because "it develops the feminine qualitites of patience and emotional stability." (See her book, Living Yoga.)

But the nuturing cocoon of the womb is not the only image we use for growth and transformation.

The destructive power of fire, agni in Sanskrit, is also used to symbolize powerful change.

Over the years of practicing and teaching yoga my view of salamba sarvangasana has evolved. From the beginning, it occurred for me as a powerful and beneficial pose that I always practiced for its comforting effects right before savasana, the corpse posture.

But now I can see more clearly that this mother of all poses can also be like fire...quite capable of destruction.

The more I teach, the more frequently I meet people for whom the pose is not a comforting, nurturing environment for growth and development. For them, it's a dangerous and debilitating pain in the neck...like fire.

I not referring to yoga dabblers, either. I'm talking about highly trained yogis, whose depth of subtlety and self exploration are rare. These people are neither sloppy, nor fool-hardy. They're careful and methodical.

But try as they might, they can't do shoulder stand without injury.

Just like your mother, salamba sarvangasana can be an amazing vehicle for change. But you can get burned, too.

Don't forget the fifth commandment: honor your father and your mother.

And don't forget the first rule of yoga, ahimsa, non-harming.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., The Sanskrit word of the day from my last Daily Yoga Tip is mayura. Mayura means peacock, as in pincha mayurasana, the tail feathers of a peacock pose.

p.p.s., Today's Sanskrit word of the day is bhuja. I'll tell you what it means next time.

p.p.p.s, My heart goes out today to my friend and yoga teaching colleague Lisa, whose house burned down recently. She and her family are safe.

She welcomed us into her home on more than one occasion. She made us feel like family. She treated us with kindness and care, like the beautiful mother she is.

Now she's looking for the lesson in it all. She told me today she's repeating a mantra that you might find helpful: everything is happening today exactly as it is supposed to happen.

Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace be with you, Lisa.

p.p.p.p.s., Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote about how many yogis find that salamba sarvangasana helps them lose weight. You can read that Daily Yoga Tip here. I wrote a Daily Yoga Tip about fire, too. Enjoy.

Copyright 2006. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.
Kevin Perry
Mo Yoga LLC
1305 Elmerine Ave
Jefferson City, MO 65101

(573) 680-6737


Blogger christine said...

I once had several classes with Richard Freeman at the YJ Boulder Conference. He won my yoga-heart when he said all of yoga could be experienced in tadasana. If standing is yoga, then it seems walking is the next logical progression. Have you ever experienced bag-wa (sp?)? There is a chi kung technique that teaches conscious walking, transfer of energy, of weight, feeling of connection to ground, among body parts, breath. It's all one, eh?

3:43 PM  

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