Transcending Asana with self inquiry

I have been reading much about Ramana Maharshi. I was first introduced to him in a mediation group I used to attend many years ago. Maharshi’s basic premise is that we are already enlightened, we just have to ask ourselves “who am I?” It is a bit more complicated than that, but maybe it isn’t.

I have been finding that question useful in my personal sadhana. I am working hard toward my Junior Intermediate I certification. Some of the most difficult poses for me are seated lateral twists. Mainly because of my girth. It is easy not to accept yourself when you are struggling in a twist. The asanas are like looking at your body through a microscope and seeing every imperfection amplified with a x1000 lens.

Every day I have been doing twists and making progress. Right when I feel discouraged, and uncomfortable, I ask myself a question: “Who is it that is struggling in this pose?” Suddenly, the twist gets deeper and more profound. The chakras align and spin. This spine works its wonders. In ardha matsyendrasana, I reach my knee, a huge milestone toward the summit-the foot. I am not there yet. “Who is not there yet?”

I reflect on Ardha Matsyendrasana. This is a pose with a beautiful lineage all the way from Shiva. Shiva was at a lakeside with Parvati, his girlfriend. Shiva and Parvati have a complicated relationship. He is teaching her yoga, but she is not listening to him. A fish in the lake is listening to Shiva’s words and becomes instantly enlightened and takes the form of Matseyandra–half man, half fish.

As I struggle in the pose I listen for Shiva’s words. All that comes is “I am” “I am.” Shivoham, Shivoham. I am not this struggling body. I am beyond that. I am beyond here and now. It doesn’t matter that I reach my foot, or my knee, or any twist at all. The main thing is that I am practicing sincerely daily. Not just in Yoga, but in life.

Shivoham Shivoham

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7 thoughts on “Transcending Asana with self inquiry

  1. So...

    Beautiful!
    Quite recently I made a telephonic acquaintance of a wonderful old lady who lived in Bhagwan’s ashram as a child. I had goosebumps listening to her firsthand account of being in proximity to an enlightened soul. It was such an uplifting experience and completely unexpected as it took place on our first conversation. She called on the work phone for some information and before either of us realised, the story just unfolded. I took down notes as she spoke just so I could read about it again. Small tidbits like him being a good cook and an animal lover, his daily walks on the hill. She spoke of the unshakeable faith they had in him and a couple of instances where seemingly impossible things came to be.

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      That’s wonderful! Bhagwan touched so many very much like Guruji has touched so many. It seems like two different methods for the same destination! Here are some wonderful accounts read by a scholar/devotee David Godman. I have been listening to these readings on my daily commute. The stories of Raman-ashram sound a lot like the stories from RIMYI: scores of visitors each getting far more than they bargained for and leaving completely changed for the better. Many blessings to you Sonia.

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  2. Peggy

    I imagine you may have heard what Manouso says about twists–that they make everyone feel “too old, too stiff, and too fat”! Ardha Matsyendrasana remains a difficult twist for me too. Thank you for your very thoughtful post. It will help me in my twisty life!

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  3. Jyotika

    Thank you for this post, and to Peggy for writing Manouso’s comment. You’ve both helped me find a way to get beyond the mental grinding I (whoever that is) usually have in twists.

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks for your comment. It triggered a memory I had many years ago in a Glenn Ceresoli workshop. In supta padangusthasana he was pushing us further and said “just imagine it’s not your leg, but someone else’s leg.” That helped too…

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  4. Velo du Jour

    Ardha Matsyendrasana! Yes, it really makes you feel like you’re “in your own face,” so to speak. (Even more self-confrontational for me is Parsva Halasana.)
    Ironically, I think that everyone looks beautiful when they twist, as long as they do with integrity to their capacity.

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