Yoga asana teaches us to move with purpose – with accuracy, poise, economy, efficiency, awareness and direction. This is right there in the meaning of vinyasa. “Vi” means “to place” and “nyasa” means “in a special way”. Anytime we include all these aforementioned attributes, I’d say it’s a pretty darn special movement! It’s a way of moving that includes all these attributes coupled with controlled breath and elevated intention. If you stop and think about this for a moment it is indeed pretty darn extraordinary in comparison with to the automatic pilot manner by which we move through the world most of the time. The truly beautiful and highly useful thing about it is that after even just a few years of practice, the vinyasa way will carry/extend out to even our mundane day-to-day get-er-done life.
My teacher David Garrigues has introduced another layer of vocabulary and, in turn, understanding to this concept.
To gesture means to move with expression – to engage the use of one’s limbs, body and even facial expressions to communicate meaning. Merriam-Webster lists the definition as:
- a movement usually of the body or limbs that expresses or emphasizes an idea, sentiment, or attitude;
- the use of motions of the limbs or body as a means of expression;
- something said or done by way of formality or courtesy, as a symbol or token, or for its effect on the attitudes of others.
As yogis many of us love asana and the gesture is an exhilarating view to apply to the movement of our limbs. Rather than simply thinking in anatomical, somewhat uninspiring terms as we move into and out of postures, the gesture adds dimension and power. What are you communicating through your movement, not only to external sources, but to and within yourself? How might you improve that communication? And in doing so, does it bring and support clarification to the body/mind?
The field of the mind – the citta – spans a broad swath of our being. It is not only filled with the thoughts generated by our intellect (buddhi), but even more so by our lower, working mind – the manas. Even if we don’t realize it, all our moving around, coming, going, fidgeting, and so on, fill it with vrittis of all sorts. According to the Yoga Sutras these sorts fall into five buckets: right/correct/authoritative knowledge, misperceptions, imagination, memory and sleep. Obviously each of these contains a wide spanning myriad of possible thoughts. Patanjali tells us these are either klista (disturbed, negative) or aklista (clear, positive).
We we move with meaning we contribute/cultivate surety, confidence, a directness from point A to B. Sthira sukham asanam (PYS 2.46) suggests steadiness of movement, supporting steadiness of mind. So, when you’re on the mat MOVE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! And I’m willing to bet you’ll see that carry over into the other aspects of your life….
*Photo credit to Sarah Potter