“Where there is Yoga,
There is prosperity, success, freedom,
and bliss.” (BKS Iyengar in Light on Prāṇāyāma)
This sounds good, I think, and so, I practice yoga. Recently in a corner bookshop in Santa Fe I had unwittingly walked by many handfuls of times, I found Mr. Iyengar’s Light on Prāṇāyāma For Sale in the Indian Subcontinent Only. Turns out, this is a lovely text, and one worth the years I have waited to come across it. I like.
Prāṇāyāma is one of the eight limbs of Yoga, as described by Mr. Iyengar himself in his encyclopedic Light on Yoga as the science of breath. In Light on Prāṇāyāma, he speaks more literally, the āyāma is the extension or stretching out of prāṇā – life force, as experienced through the breath. Breath stretches. Lately I have been very into toe stretches, as they calm me down, wake up the stagnation that settles down in my feet by the end of the day and make the earth feel like butter underfoot. I like the subtle stretches, as the muscles in my body are by nature rather bound, and big stretches of big muscle groups, like hamstrings and upper back, have proven difficult, again and again. But in a foot, or an eye or ear stretch, I can feel and often see change one round to the next. Cool.
Which brings me to the first lesson I learned in Light on Prāṇāyāma; there are four stages to a prāṇāyāma practice, recorded and studied in depth in the text and paraphrased here: the beginning, the endeavor, the intimate knowledge and the consummation. Like all ventures, a prāṇāyāma study involves time and dedicated return to the course. I am pleased to be reminded that even though this stuff is subtle (and it is so subtle sometimes it feels confusing how in the world it could be so powerful, challenging and evasive?!?), it is a process, that will be kneaded and formed over many sessions and stages. And like most of a yoga practice, I feel that these stages fluctuate, turn into each other and back around again, according to how the practitioner is, in that moment.
Prosperity, success, freedom and bliss are the side effects and social graces that come along with the yoga, and yet, they, too are always fluctuating and even taking form as one another. The prosperity of a rich and full breath, savored to completion with gratitude and pause is a great success, and remains totally free. The gifts I have to offer when I make these kinds of breaths help my own wending ways of providing for myself and my extended family of humans with more traditional means of “prosperous” tender. Freedom is on the inside, which, by definition, undoes a literal ideal of this word. Freedom with is the way I see the greatest liberation, rather than freedom from. This takes a minor shift of perspective and some good hard working therapy on mindfulness to find healthy feeling around some experience that may have been, in the moment, far from blissful. But bliss, oh the sweet and mellifluous sap of happy that I feel in moments of real peace and exaltation, well, I cannot say there is rhyme or reason entire to experiencing bliss. I have learned this much: hold a circle of support that is loving and safe, speak your heart more than your mind, do what makes you happy whenever you know what that may be and be open to it changing shape, form and discipline over and over again.
Somewhere in the middle of the four stages of prāṇāyāma and these four resplendent gifts of the practice, I am happy to say I AM. Happy full flower moon.
Learning all the time,
In love and service,