Sunday, February 3, 2013

Giving adjustments and stilling the mind through asana - Elise's further questions

What is the point of giving students physical adjustments?  If it isn't about the asanas, then does it matter if one can do it or not?  If one isn't willing to make the effort then why should the teacher bear the burden? Or is more like helping the light shine through and the energy move past someone's samskaras? 

There were some students Guruji would seldom adjust and there were others he helped with every pose. Some students learn verbally and others somatically. Adjustments can help students understand how to get into a posture, take them deeper than they understood was possible and can be used therapeutically.

Tomas Zorzo: "I remember I was writing in my diary, I was sitting on the bench in front of Lakshmi Puram police station waiting for class – he (Guruji) had told me to come at 6 am. And I wrote “This man, he is going to kill me, he is adjusting me so strongly.” I was afraid I was going to be broken from his strong adjustments. He was on top of me in every asana and I was feeling “Oh my God he’s going to kill me” But instead of that he was healing me. His adjustments were very good. He treated me with such love and care on that first trip, It was superb." 

Guruji understood the mechanics of the body very well, he conveyed this by guiding us with his hands. Not only which direction are you moving the arm/leg/etc but are you internally/externally rotating it? Is it an inhale? Or an exhale? He was very specific and precise.

How does "getting" a certain posture relate to stilling the mind?

Guruji used to say that you have to practice an asana 1000 times in order to perfect it. So one only "gets" a posture long after its novelty has worn off and probably you would not notice this moment. Perhaps some time afterwards you would remark - "I have not been feeling strain or discomfort in this asana for some time."

Patanjali says: prayatnaśaithilyānantasamāpattibhyām

Which means something like - the asana is perfected when all effort is relaxed and the mind is absorbed in the infinite. The mind being absorbed in the infinite, implies, I believe, a state of samadhi. 

The way to controlling the mind is through the breath - when the asana is comfortable, the breath can be even, but we also know that through the breath we can directly make the asana more comfortable. The breath is the bridge between mind and body.  

When the posture is steady and comfortable, it will be a fit vehicle for pranayama, through which will come the progressive stilling of the mind. As long as we are taking a posture for a few breaths and then doing vinyasa, there is no possibility of stilling the mind to a complete stop. There is certainly a reduction in mental chatter, but as Guruji used to say: "every time you open and close your eye, you think a different thought" - so you have to sit still to steady the mind. That means padmasana, or some other suitable posture.

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