The dogs are barking. It is early morning and the dog alarm is going off. I have been up for awhile, which is good because I would be getting up now anyway with all this cacophony, all this howling and barking. India is noisy. Sometimes there are periods of quiet. But mostly it is very noisy here.
Even the yoga teachers and the yoga students here are noisy. They cry and moan when they are practicing. Not all of them, and not all of the time–but some of the women constantly moan. I wonder if the practice is really that hard for them or if they are just expressing themselves vocally? Is this some sort of discharge like the incessant howling and barking that I am hearing right now outside of my second floor apartment on Lakaki road?
The giant clock behind me is ticking, but it is stuck at 5:55 and has been for more than a day. The rhythmic steady nature of this ticking is soothing. But the jarring barking and constant yelling is to be contended with, breathed with. It is not going to go away, though there may be occasional lapses of several minutes or even a few hours.
One of my teachers here is in a lot of pain. She is in obvious physical pain. But also vivid emotional pain. I feel for her. And I feel love for her. For who she is and the gifts she gives. I see in her a young girl sometimes. I see longing, and the memories of a some different time in her eyes. I see a strong and strange beauty in her swollen, stiff and challenged body. She has trouble walking and so shuffles carefully across the floor in her thick woolen socks . But when she does her yoga practice, which she does in front of all of us, it is inspiring and beautiful. She sometimes moans or whimpers when she is practicing. But she does so quietly – and honestly. I say honestly because it really seems like an honest vocal expression of her inner challenges. This woman has incredible will-power. She has a willingness to get in there and work and tend to the challenges of her body/mind no matter what.
I watched one day as she knelt on all fours and stretched one leg backwards and upwards while extending her sternum and chin in the opposite direction. An assistant helped her lift her leg. She appeared to be doing a sort of warrior 3 action or a warrior 3 intention. Warrior 3 is a pose where you stand on one leg and extend the opposite leg and both of your arms away from each other with the body parallel to the ground – sort of like superman. She was extending her body like a dancer, or an archer with a giant bow. She looked like a graceful warrior of a woman, on all fours, doing her pose while being helped by another woman. Her body was full of intention. I saw the clear and fierce intention to extend fully and completely in two directions at one time. She was lifting more than her leg. It was arresting.
She works at the grill (sets of window bars) and does a revolved triangle, creating a sustained and lengthened twisting action. She hangs in the ropes and has the assistants help her do her backbends which are filled with the same fierce will to expand, to open and uplift herself .
One day she came in to the hall, climbed upon the platform, and sat in with her legs akimbo in a pose we call upavista konasana. There was a bench in front of her where she rested her chin on her hands and then placed her hands on her face, over her face and eyes. She opened her hands enough to see again, but then kept her hands under her chin. Again, she looked like a young girl. She looked sad. I felt so much love for her in that moment. I sat still, and let the breath flow in and out of my heart, feeling with her, and sending her love. It is all I can do, that and practice authentically, honestly and as non-violently as possible.
When she teaches it is like Jazz. She improvises with us. It is a dance. She can no longer move with her body in the way that she used to. But she does dance with us. She dances through us. We are receiving so much: it is a transmission on many levels.
I love and respect my teacher, but I do not want to emulate or transmit the yelling that happens here. I do not want to emulate or transmit the harshness, or what can feel like an abusive form of pedagogy. I know that I have done this very thing at times in the past. I have copied, unskillfully, my teachers. It was not true or authentic for me to teach or practice in such a manner. And I must be vigilant so as not to transmit this.
But this transmission, which is the courage to live as fully as possible in the truth of our experience and forge ahead with honesty, both in our teaching and practice, is a stark and simple reminder of the power of authenticity.