Tibetan Yoga on Wednesday Mornings 10:00 am
In my personal practice of yoga, in the past five-years, I have started to bring more and more of my meditation into my yoga and more of my yoga into my meditation. Essentially, it is now one practice. This is possible because the type of somatic meditation that I practice (somatic meaning “of the body”) is rooted in Vajrayana Buddhism. This is one of the major schools of Buddhist practice and thought that is based on the idea that we all already possess Buddha-nature in ourselves and that enlightenment is just the recognition of our true nature. The practice has more to do with learning techniques that access much more than the physical body and bring us into a state of open awareness to things as they are. It is in this “space” where all potential and opportunity exists. We don’t need to make anything, improve on anything, get more flexible or strong or change anything. Rather, we use our tools of somatic awareness to enter into an open space. It’s the difference between being shown a seat at a table where there are bins of colored markers, feathers, glitter, paints and multicolored paper and being shown a seat at a table where you see some used lined paper and a worn down pencil. It isn’t that you couldn’t make something happen with that lined paper and pencil, but when you get seated there, you have to really work to think of the possibilities. At the other table, you see all those supplies and your energy is uplifted and you feel like there are endless things you could create. These tantric practices are about entering a space that feels like you just got a seat at the table with all the colorful art supplies.
I don’t know, but I guess it is possible that you might become more flexible over time or that you might get stronger or lose weight. But, really, what kind of “goals” are these in the face of the idea that you could live every moment of your life like you just won the creative supply lottery? No matter how much yoga you do, you are going to get older (We hope! Right?), sometimes you may get sick or be tired or get an injury or disease. What I am realizing more and more is that you can’t get better at yoga or meditation, but you can find your way into this delicious state of awareness and find yourself able to stay there for longer and longer periods of time. It isn’t some fantasy location or a vacation place that you have to, eventually, leave. The more you practice, the more life feels like a seat at the table of infinite glitter and less like you are stuck trying to make magic with a worn down pencil. We use the body, but it isn’t ABOUT the body.
This being said, the movements and physical exercises of Tibetan yogas are very much like the asana you are already familiar with from Hatha or Indian yoga traditions. I start these classes with a very simple energy sequence that you can do at any time if you feel like you need to get your energy moving in the right direction. Then, we set an intention of metta (compassion, or loving-kindness). Whatever your own intention is for making your practice a priority, that is up to you. But, as we join together, we recognize that our practice is for something outside of ourselves. We practice to improve the quality of life for all living beings. Again, maybe you will feel better in your own body after practice, but we don’t practice just for this purpose. Then, we take nine cleansing breaths to clear the major energy channels of “drip” (low energy or blocks). Starting out with free flowing energy and clear of any drip, we loosen the joints, practice some asana (physical postures), use techniques such as sound, visualization and hand postures to build our life-force and then we meditate and relax. While some of this may seem familiar, the effect is profound. I personally feel liberated, grounded, and inspired after I use these practices. I love this open feeling-place and the fact that I can access it no matter what is going on in my life or whether I have an injury or physical challenge to practice. When I mostly practiced flow-style yoga, if I had a hurt wrist or ankle, I felt like I couldn’t “do my whole practice” or practice for “real” until the injury healed and I could go back to it. Now, I feel like I can do my whole practice and get the full benefit even if I have to do the whole thing lying down.
I’m happy to share these techniques as I understand and practice them and hope that you will use them to enhance your own home practice. No matter what other kinds of yoga you like to practice, learning these simple techniques can add more options to your tool box for whenever you need to create space around a problem or concern or just find a sweet spot to relax that you know is yours to enter into whenever you like.