Class was packed this morning, two days before Guruji’s birthday. It is definitely winter. As we bundled into the mat to mat filled room, often two per mat, the bodies began to melt the early morning chill.
“The means is not the end, in the end we must forsake the means, otherwise they cannot be a means to an end, and the means becomes the end itself.” Prashant began with a thread from a previous class, which he now, he said, would complete. You cannot keep on doing asana to stretch this and lengthen that, is that the end? He continued; “I gave up the means to evolve. In the end, the means cease to have meaning.”
Prashant has followed his own inner guide and, over the years, he has studied, reflected, applied and evolved his own Sadhana. He explained how his classes had changed since the 80s. “Svasa and vinyasa is yog”; stages, what is the touch for specific conditions, he asked. We should identify the drive, access the place, and evolve. We should not just do the asana, we drive the asana; and the breath is the conditioner, the conductor. In his book, The 18 Maha Kriyas of Yogasana, he explains that the breath is the “most prominent transformer”, air knows no boundaries, it goes everywhere..
Now do Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana as if you are a beginner, he suggests. How do you evolve from here? How do you create conditions for yog? The connectivity? Let me ask you, who is doing Urdhva Hastasana? Now YOU do Urdhva Hastasana. Who is the you that is doing? The doer, the doing, and the done. What is being done and by whom? For whom? What is actually happening right now? What is the subject and what is the object?
Prashant’s rhetoric reminds me of the difference between engineering and metaphysics. In engineering, everything can be quantified, measured, determined. In metaphysics, the parameters are completely different. Prashant frequently recommends that all yoga students study metaphysics.
How do we build the syntax, the grammar? Most important, what is the right question to ask? He continues, he cajoles, he elaborates. “We all say that Patanjali wrote a thesis on grammar, but it is not the grammar as we think of grammar. In the Vedas, speech is very important, and what is right speech.” The Speech he refers to is the drive, the intent, the focus we carry into the work. Often, it is only through a deep and ongoing process of reflection that we uncover the real question or quest in and beneath our actions and activities.
Now build the connectivites, the connections, the alertness, the sensitivity, the sensibilities, the reflection. Do Parvritta Swatikasana, he continues, for the pelvis. The directions feel familiar be now; exhale more and more deeply, alternately inhale more deeply, sustain the retention for longer and longer.
Watch how the mind changes, watch the breath, you cannot separate the two he exclaims. The sutras refer to the mind, but we cannot work with the mind without acknowledging the impact, the effect of the breath on the mind. The mind does not exist independent of the breath. Prashant continued with an analogy; it is like milk tea. You enjoy your tea in the morning, the combination of water, milk, tea and sugar makes a lovely drink. But each thing independently will not give you the satisfaction of milk tea. You can chew on the tea leaves, taste the sugar cubes, but it is not the same as a cup of hot tea. Together it becomes something different.
Evolve the senses with the breath; take a stronger and longer exhalation and retention, what happens? What is actually happening? I shift my “drive” from doing to feeling, sensing. “What is doing and what is being done to, where, how? What is benefiting, and what or who are the beneficiaries? Are you sensing, analyzing, reflecting, what part of you is sensing, analyzing, reflecting? “ Sometimes I think that he entreats us the way a zen master would with a koan. I have to stop and be still in a place of not knowing how, or when, or where, or what. And then consider shifting my lens. I know that when I hear wind blowing through trees I open my senses in a particular way, and this same wind blows in my body. Can I open my senses to the internal vayus, the internal breath?
Now, can the breath be done on you, he finally asks….