Friday, 23 May 2014

Incredible India: Astral Yoga

We were sitting in “How To Teach” class one morning when Yogi Ram asked, in an assuming tone, if everyone was able to get into headstand on their own and hold it for three minutes. About seventy-five percent of the class, including myself, said no. He looked half disappointed and half mad. He then said that he would be teaching asana class that afternoon and that everyone will hold a headstand for 3 minutes, among other promises.

My heart instantly sunk. First of all,  I felt like I completely disappointed Ram, and myself; and then I became nervous about this upcoming class and that it was not going to be very pleasant.

After lunch, our normal philosophy class was replaced by an Ayurveda massage class. It was amazing to learn the techniques and so good to receive a massage as well. The only problem was, after getting a massage I was left in a sleepy trance. I could barely sit up or open my eyes, let alone image how I was going to muster up any energy to do this asana class in ten minutes. Different ways of how I could get out of doing the class were circling through my head.

I went to my room to change, and ran through every idea of what I was going to say to get out of the class. But, I knew deep down that I would never just not try. I accepted what was about to happen, whether the experience be good or bad.


Our Yoga Hall

As I walked into the yoga hall, it seemed like everyone was really anticipating the class. There was almost a nervous energy in the room as everyone was laying in savasana. We had never had Yogi Ram teach us our advanced asana class before, and once he started the class I realized his voice had a very neutering quality that I did not except. It is not that I doubted his teaching abilities, it just that previously, his nature seemed so urgent and rushed.

He explained that we would be doing real asanas today; holding postures for long periods of time with our eyes closed the duration of the class. We would not be moving with out physical bodies, but with our energy, or astral bodies. We would follow the principle of Hatha Yoga, which is to not think, just do. Not to let the mind intrude, just let the astral body move, as it has no limitations, only the mind and the physical body will stop the astral body from doing a task.

I really had no idea how I was going to do this, or even if it was really possible. However, for the first time in the month I just tried, without any reservation. I do not know how I opened my mind to it, because fear had been stopping me from doing a lot for the past few weeks. Clearly, something was different, because I did not decide to do it, I did not decide to try and open my mind, I guess I just didn’t think for once, let whatever be, be.

I let go.

Ram told us, as we were laying in initial savasana to focus on something or a feeling that we have a strong connection with, whether that be someone’s face or a really loving moment. If we could not keep that connection he said to picture the numbers counting down from 59 then repeat through after each minute.

As he lead us through kapalbhati, anulom vilom, surya namaskar and warming up it felt really different. With my eyes closed and focus directed internally, I could really be with every breath and every movement.

I could not pinpoint what was so different about Yogi Ram’s teaching, it just felt like he knew exactly how to reach our astral bodies and not to direct us physically, like he was speaking on a different frequency.

When he directed us into headstand, I didn’t feel the sudden panic or nervousness that I normally did. I did not feel anything really. I just did it. When normally I toppled over and smashed my back on the ground, I didn’t. My body made its own adjustments. I had my eyes closed and pictured the numbers counting down from 59 seconds, then repeating this again. Around the two and a half minute mark I realized what I was doing and got an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and a very emotional feeling of a spiritual connection I have never felt before. Once all of those feeling came flooding in, tears began to stream from my eyes and I fell away from my connection, back into my physically awareness and I came down from my posture. I wasn’t mad or upset with myself for not making it the whole three minutes. As I rested in shaskankasana, I kept crying, but I felt so happy. I actually hadn’t felt that much happiness in a long time. I really wanted to get back into shirshasana for the last few seconds but I was having a moment and knew I needed to get it out and just feel what was happening.

This moment confirmed for me that I really am capable of so much more than what I give myself credit for. That fear is what has stopped me from accomplishing a lot of things and kept me in self-defeating feelings and thought processes.


Megan and Talia - Shirshasana

The rest of the practice was so beautiful. I felt my energy body move through my physical and experienced such a spiritual connection the whole time. This also may sound egotistical, but I also felt so comfortable and confident in my body. I really was proud of how it was moving and how strong, flexible, and free it felt. Especially given how much I had been berating myself before and comparing myself to others with much more flexibility and ability to do certain asanas. I was not thinking about anyone else in the room, I was not thinking about anything else for that matter, just how connected I was and how amazing it felt to move through the asanas.

Standing in tadasana, it was hard to believe the practice was almost over. I felt like only a few minutes has passed, not two hours. I also was amazed that I did the whole class with closed eyes when previously, I could only hold crow for 30 seconds let alone not with my eyes closed.

Our final relaxation was a 45 minute guide into yogic sleep which perfectly sealed the whole practice. It is a feeling I could not ever know how to describe.

Beautiful Yogis in Savasana

After class I wanted to thank Yogi Ram for the class. I hadn't ever talked to him one-on-one, but knew I had to say something after that experience. Without knowing, or maybe knowing, he had helped me experience something that I honestly believe changed me, and I will never forget.

I did not expect my reaction, I opened my mouth to speak and tears started streaming down my face and I was chocking trying to get the words out.

I got out something along the lines of a thank you for the practice and, “that was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had,” he replied with a smile and said, “Well that’s the point of yoga.” and gave me a hug.

After that moment I took on a new view of the whole course, of yoga, of myself and of India. I had been pretty resistant before, I was finding things wrong where they weren’t, I was having negative thoughts of myself and sometimes even asking, “Why the heck did I ever come to India?!” After that I knew,  I was always meant to come here, and the long journey of ups and downs brought me to this moment. I felt a great sense of peace within.

Makarasana