Sometimes, strange and wonderful things happen in our lives. Last tuesday, it happened to me. As those who follow my whereabouts on this website or on Twitter may know, I’m very much focused on losing weight and getting fit. Quite succesfully, I might add. Having lost some 10 kilo’s and training twice a week in the gym, I wanted to do something to become more flexible and shape up my rejuvenating body. So I decided to pick up yoga. Last tuesday I had a trial lesson of Ahstanga Vinyasa Yoga with a friend who is a yoga teacher. She invited me to just come and try once. I found it quite hard, since I am not all that flexible, and most of the other students are thin well trained looking ladies. But I gave it my best, and bravely worked my way through the exercises.
At the end of the hour or so stretching my shortened muscles to the brink of where they would go, trying to stand on one leg without falling over, not to mention trying to grasp my hands with my arms around my body in an awkward manner, we finally could lay back on the yoga mat and relax. I was tucked in under a blanket like a baby by a caring mother, and laid there with a floating mind listening to a somewhat angelical music, with a high and thin female voice. Then the strangest thought, or was it a thougt? A feeling? An experience? came to me. At one point, I felt the notion of contact between my mind and my body, and they seemed to agree: “let’s become friends”. And I was really astounded.
Other than what you might think in view of the name of this website, I am a rather analytic and cognitive person. So my mind is pretty much in control most of the time. I don’t like to let go of myself, and I’m quite self-aware. That can be annoying at times, and I’m envyous of people who are direct and primal in their emotions and reactions. Now they say that yoga is not merely the exercise of the body, a bit of stretching and so on, but more importantly it is meant to unite body and soul. For this, it’s not only important to execute the exercises (called “asana’s”) properly, but even more so you have to control your breathing (called “pranayama”) in a correct way, so the energy (which the Chinese call “chi”) can flow freely. Now this is where I get a bit sceptical, because I can see that it is important to breath properly when doing exercises. When your muscles are contracting, you can experience that it is easier to do so if you exhale while your muscles are working, and it is natural to inhale when your muscles are relaxing. That’s just an empirical fact, and most likely has to do with the need of oxygen supply to your muscles when they have to do work. But to say, that this would open up the spirit and lead you to unity with the metaphysical spheres seems a bit far fetched to me. Or should I say: seemed?
What happened? “Oh well”, you could say, “it’s no wonder, you’re so involved in getting more healthy, and lying there relaxed, pondering on what you are doing there, this logical thought simply came to you. Nothing special”. But the thing is: it was not an everyday thought. It wasn’t really a thought even. It was an experience. It was a conversation of sorts that took place beyond me, as I said above: as if my mind and body were chatting among themselves and I was a mere spectator. “Come on!”, you’ll say, “you were just a bit light in the head because of the switches between ‘upward facing dog’ and ‘downward facing dog’ “. But I don’t think so, actually. I think that those who say that yoga leads to creating unity between body and soul are actually right. And completely unprepared, unaware, that is what I experienced. My pompous little mind, my rational thinking, the little professor, somehow came into contact with the rest of my body. Whereas before, in the past 50 odd years of my life, it never bothered to listen. I was not even very fond of my body. OK it’s not too bad, but I can’t say I got the best of deals. When we were young, my brother (who is a bit of a funny guy) used to say that my mind was not completely incarnated in my body. Don’t know why he said that, other than trying to tease me. It’s not like we were raised in any religious way, and kept on about how well we were all incarnated.
My friend the yoga teacher asked me, what it was like, if I enjoyed the lesson. Before the lesson, she said that the first time yoga could release things, and I didn’t think much of it. Afterwards, I said: we’ll talk later. I wanted to think it over first, what happened there. So what has happened? I think that it is true, yoga does lead to contact between body and soul, if you do it properly. And you don’t even have to be really good at it. In my life, I had only two other experiences like this, that made me realize that not everything in life can be controlled by the rational mind. One was when I lost control over myself, after a day of exams and then finding out that my grandmother was hospitalized in a closed ward because of Alzheimer. After visiting her, which was a shocking experience, I went out of my head when someone crossed me in the Amsterdam traffic. The rest of the evening I stayed in, shocked by my reaction. And the other time was when I became a father. For months I tried to understand, what it would be like. Until when our first child was born, and I experienced, that parenthood cannot be understood by the rational mind. It is something that you experience on an emotional level, and that is that.
I now understand, that one has to realize that the rational mind is just a little part of yourself, which is important, but not all that important as it tends to think. “I” does not equal only your rational mind. There is much more to it. And it is good, once the little rational ego comes to realize this, and opens up to the rest of the integral organism that you are, and they say to each other: “Hey, lets become friends!” You should try it sometime. [MdV, 06-09-2012]