Although underrated, twists are powerful poses and have many benefits. They open the primordial channel of energy along the spine – the Sushumna Nadi (channel of grace), which puts you in touch with the universal energy within you. In addition, twists purify the internal organs and are the “tonic” for the spine. Given that the spinal column is the home of the central nervous system which carries “biologic wires” of communication to every part of the body, twists work with the nerves and emotions. When anxious, twists will calm you down. When exhausted, twists rejuvenate and restore you.
At the recent Love Yoga Festival in Falmouth, I taught a class on spinal twists and I began the class with Tantric teachings. You can hear a recording of this talk below. Tranquility is our true nature and is the goal and driver of all yoga paths. We want to find the calm within the chaos, the eye of the hurricane. Tranquility is one of the qualities of the great Absolute that resides within.
But most of us have forgotten how to access tranquility. In the speed of today’s technological world, we’ve lost the patience and perseverance that it takes to cultivate true serenity. We habitually try to find serenity in all of the wrong places through addiction to substances, food, sex, money, etc. At best, these superficial outlets can only bring temporary peace but often lead to more pain, suffering, complications, and chaos – the opposite of serenity.
Life’s path is full of surprises. It twists and turns. The journey of the heart is never a straight line.
We can’t stop this from happening but we can choose how to respond to it. You can either turn away from your life and not deal with it or turn toward it and face it. Tranquility comes only when you choose to face your life. Everything in life is a transition. Even when you achieve your goal, it will change. And there’s the next goal beyond that. It’s never-ending. This is called life!
But when you look back, you’ll see that it’s during the transitions that the most growth happens. Years ago when I shifted from being a professional jazz musician to a yogi, I experienced incredible growth. I went to a 10-day yoga retreat and stayed for 13 years! I found a new way to live that wasn’t based on late-night clubbing. Back in the 80’s, to hear jazz you had to go to smoky nightclubs, stay up until the wee hours of the morning, and be surrounded by alcohol and sometimes drugs. With my new yoga life, I turned away from the jazz scene and turned toward healthier habits, a sustainable schedule, and a better diet. I found a more tranquil lifestyle and found peace within.
After 13 years living in the yoga ashram, the community broke apart due to a scandal of abuse by the founder and I plummeted into another transition. Then after 15 more years following another teacher, boom! The community went bust. I lost two communities. But when I look back, I see that these two transitions motivated me to create Ashaya Yoga. It gave me the courage to follow my heart and create a community of empowerment where we uplift and support each other to offer our unique gifts to the world. Although the transitions were difficult, they gave me deep insight into why I’m here. They gave me the feeling of urgency and that life is too short to waste. I finally understood my calling.
As they say, when one door closes, another one opens. But what they don’t tell you is the hallway’s a bitch! Yoga is the door closing, the door opening, and the hallway. Usually, though, we close our eyes in the hallway during the challenging times. But I encourage you to keep your eyes open in the hallway because that’s when you gain the most insight. You can discover your destiny path in the transition. The transition is the midline. It’s a kind of threshold, the place in between. In yoga, this is called the Madhya, the middle. This is the place of transition. The threshold of experience is like a threshold of a doorway; you get to see both sides of a situation.
Metaphysically, the threshold is the place where the universal touches the individual. This offers an opportunity to see your life from a broader perspective. It’s the place of stillness between your thoughts. This is the true place of peace within. The threshold is represented by the heart which is in the middle of the body. Energetically there are three chakras above and three chakras below. The heart is the abode, the home, where consciousness rests and gathers itself.
To live in serenity, we need to slow down and not be in such a rush all of the time.
Driving home from the conference, I took time to notice the leaves beginning to change to their fall colors. At a rest stop, I took in all of the glorious colors, seeing the yellows, reds, and oranges and could smell the earthy scent of fall. I took such delight in this moment. It gave me a warm feeling of joy. I felt peaceful and serene.
One of the reasons we can’t access tranquility is because we’re obsessed and stuck in the past. Most of the time we dwell on our losses, regrets, or resentments. We have not made peace with our past. The yogi seeks to integrate the past and make peace with what was. This requires a deep awareness and longing for joy. But we often go about making peace with our past in ineffective ways. Making peace with loss or grief does not mean you let it go and now you’re no longer bothered by it. It’s more about learning how to live with grief and loss with a deeper understanding that this is a transition that is now part of your life. When you accept that grief is part of the reality of life, you begin to receive the gift of insight and perspective that this transition was meant to give you. But if you resist it and try to push it away, not face it, you miss the teaching. Know that tranquility lies just under the surface of grief and all other emotions. Yoga is turning toward yourself and learning how to love yourself gradually, step by step, accepting the twists and turns of your life. Yoga brings you to the place of the middle where you pause, breathe, feel, reflect, and open with acceptance to receive the wisdom that’s constantly being offered. Only through deep acceptance of our past can we access tranquility.
For more yogic insights and to learn how to deal with life’s twists and turns, sign up for a weekend workshop this fall, ring in 2020 with me at my annual New Year’s Yoga Retreat at the world-famous Kripalu Center, join me at the upcoming Ashaya Yoga Tropical Retreat to Costa Rica (save $500 when you register by October 15!), or study with me online at Yoga International.
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