Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory." This blog is a resource to explore the one percent theory and to inspire you on the mat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Trusting Earth


According to the Vedas the ancient goddess Prithivi is the personification of the earth. That means that the earth is not just the earth; she's a Goddess. She is described as 'great, wise, and energetic, She 'lavishes gifts upon her worshippers', she is 'that which holds everything'. She's 'beneficent and kind to all'. Also she's 'the inexhaustible source of abundance'.

You'll know the truth of each one of these descriptions if you tune to the earth during practice. You'll feel how kind and unstinting she is in her support of you. You'll feel her gift of tremendous power and energy through your feet and legs and how the dynamic expression of each posture is rooted in her abundance. You'll feel how she allows you to tether your self to her so you can soar skyward and thus set your spine free to spin and elongate and coil. You'll find your self plugged into the earth standing in triangle posture praising her gifts of spaciousness in your body and loving the spontaneous affinity between her and your consciousness. Also you'll find that a magnetic bond develops between you and the earth especially when you practice the primary series With each forward bend and vinyasa you get low to the ground, you prostrate, you pray with your body again and again to Prithivi, the nourishing, caring source of abundance.

Gravity is the downward force that pulls anything that has weight towards the center of the earth. One way to deepen your connection to the earth is to become conscious of its gravitational pull on your body. You can actually sense your weight being drawn irresistibly downwards. Go with it, enjoy it and let your self be drawn closer to the earth. And feel how she reaches for you, how she actively supports you. This way of tuning in involves letting go, becoming receptive, and feeling an almost lazy heaviness within the body. You relax and suspend effort. When you allow this combination of qualities to inform your posture, you're movements become more circular and cohesive . You are present in a deep rooted, whole, yielding way.

During practice, allow the parts of the body in contact with earth to widen, sink, and increase their connection to the ground. And see how in return, the ground increases her connection to you by supporting you more. By this awareness you create a powerful magnetic affinity between you and the earth. Your posture becomes immovable, super grounded, and energetically alive much more than when when you try with your will or when you try to apply intense physical effort to achieve a posture. Paradoxically, the softer, more spacious, and receptive effortless qualities that accompany trusting the earth give you the strength and power that you won't be able to find by willing or excessive effort. It can be thought of as a more feminine or yin way of being in a posture. You're receptive. You give way, let go and become expansive. You just are. And yet your posture will also express powerful strength and energetic vitality.

Two more of Prithivi's gifts to her devotees are feelings of spaciousness and timelessness within. Take time to contemplate these qualities and how the connecting with the earth gives them to you when you invite her into your practice. Connecting with earth in a posture brings a dynamic sense of spaciousness inside the torso that allows the tidal ebb and flow rhythm of the breath to reach its full expression. During practice the lungs and ribcage need to be able to expand and contract to their full capacity with ease. Also the spaciousness that results from tethering your self to the earth through the legs frees the spine to elongate, coil, spin, and stretch; Prithivi gives you the ability to enjoy the spine's full range of motion.

Overall, the strength of your posture comes from the earth and enables you to loosen up, become spacious and find satisfying, large, circular patterned movements that integrate the entire body into your posture. The body is cleansed and healed by these wholesome, earthy, deep patterned movements and life force pervades your inner world. Perhaps you arrive in a place where you really belong in your body and your inner world, from the boundary of skin to the core of the bones, becomes your sanctuary.

Timelessness implies that time ceases, that the passing flow of moments seems to slow down. Or maybe your concern diminishes for what time it is or what happened or is going to happen. You become timeless because you go to a deeper level of consciousness where you cease to give importance to the mesmerizing temporal sequence that ordinarily seems so concrete, so rational and so real and thus dominates. One of the most beautiful images associated with the awakening of Kundalini (the coiled one), is that when she enters Shushumna Nadi (the most glorious channel) and travels up the core of the body from base to crown, she swallows time. Perhaps swallowing time indicates that the moment NOW suddenly moves into the foreground. The past and future fade into the background. NOW opens up an entirely new world. Now is complete, precious and needs nothing added to it or subtracted from it and thus stretches out and lasts. When you strike a pose that is truly rooted in the earth, time ceases just like when Kundalini travels up the core of the body. Indeed connecting with earth awakens Kundalini, helps you to slow down, to be weighty, to tune into center, and become a vast, spacious, container that holds large stores of life force.

When you awaken your life force by bringing the earth clearly into your body in your practice, meditation results; your inner world becomes animated, vivid, and clear. You begin to understand and listen to your heart wisdom. You tune into your own unique style of unadorned bliss. You are happy to linger there.

But also turning your body into a vessel for life force, requires working with and accepting whatever comes. Thus it is equally necessary to learn to sit with and accept your pain. The reality is we are constantly causing pain to ourselves and others through our ignorance and inability to be fully awake and responsive to the present. Our mind attacks us with all manner of guilt, blame, and criticism; we're either too lazy and 'good-for-nothing' or we're exhausting ourselves striving for that never-to-be- reached perfection so we can finally be somebody or have some worth. The pain comes on all levels: physical, mental, and even the deep level of soul longing. Getting in touch with earth gives you the rock steady firmness and patience to feel, endure, and accept your pain and thereby transform it.

You tap the earth's support and use your power to contain and accept all the various aches, physical injuries, ailments, diseases, the toll of aging, and eventually even the terror and perceived pain of death. And through the earth, you create the space to contain and accept your bouts of mental anguish ranging from mild inner nagging and low level worry to highly agitated vicious, attacking mind that surges with aggression. You even have to accept familiarity of clinging to your habit patterns that are based in fear and result in unsatisfying, harmful repetition.

Daily you have to come back and face your same tight places, same blockages, same weaknesses. It is essential to remain receptive and firm rooted continuing to nurture your self in the midst of it. Yoga and Prithivi teach you to cultivate the patience to keep on giving and giving to your self, to keep forgiving your pain and ignorance. So as you step on the mat each day anew, you bring in the earth and keep on cultivating patience, rock steadiness and nourishing, caring support for your self. These gifts from the earth are the bedrock foundation of Yoga practice. Remember that to be in touch with the earth IS to be nourished, like a child who finds comfort in the close vicinity of her mother, feel how your body gravitates towards the comfort of Bhu Devi the Earth, the 'great, wise, and energetic' Goddess.

I have provided an exercise for you. You can either listen and practice to it on side bar player of the blog or you can read it and practice it on your own. The intent of the exercise is to help you tune into the qualities of support and generosity that the earth gives. Stand in Samasthiti or sit in lotus (or an equivalent seated posture). Let your posture be a prayer to Prithivi the great earth mother who feeds and bestows benevolence on her children. See her as a beautiful woman with rich green skin and four arms.

Imagine, not that you are on the earth but rather, you are part of the earth like an out cropping, an island that has thrust up from the ocean bottom. You ARE earth from your feet, legs and hips all the way up the spine and through out the entire body. Allow the parts of the body in contact with earth to widen and sink and increase their connection to the ground. In return, feel the ground increase her connection to you by supporting you more. Allow your weight to rest on your bones. And feel that the bones are buoyant and eager to receive your weight. Intentionally lower your center of gravity by letting your body be irresistibly drawn down wards towards the earth's center.

As you plug in, merge with earth more and more. Cultivate the feeling that you are earth, that you are the nourisher and supporter of all the life within you. Naturally you create space and care for everything within you, all your emotions, thoughts, moods, actions, reactions, pain, and dreams. You continuously bestow nurturing care and benevolence upon your self. Glimpse the power of the earth, of being infinitely generous and supportive of all life and enjoy your connection to that source.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you, David.

    fear = unsatisfying, harmful repetition.

    I am going to trust more fully this week in the spacious timelessness. Om, shanti.

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  2. David, what a wonderful new way to envision the practice - creating spaciousness for and merging with mother earth so that the spine can really expand/lengthen and the breath can become even more powerfully cyclical and nourishing. Love it! Thank you, Rob

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  3. This post answers many questions for me, David. And some that I didn't even know I had. Thank you... rebecca

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  4. Inspiring writings and I greatly admired what you have to say , I hope you continue to provide new ideas for us all and greetings success always for you..Keep update more information..
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