Thursday, May 29, 2008

Avoiding Pain - Nina's mantra in class today

I took Nina Pileggi's level 2 class today - so many make ups to do. Nina suggested I donate them to friends and employees. Any takers?

Today was all about twists and pulling back and twisting around from the navel. That is hard work - I was sweating and my shoulders have become tight with lack of practice so they hurt when I do twists in standing poses, especially Uthita Trikonasa which is exceptionally painful. She transitioned from that to Uthita Parsva Trikonasa, a trikonasana with a twist.

And then there are those tough variations. She asked us to move the raised hand back, , lift the sternum and pull it back from the navel and raise and turn the head back, then bend the arm to touch the head so the elbow was not visible to the eyes. Easier said than done - she does these poses with such perfection.

I tried, many tried and you could hear the grunt and sigh of pain. She immediately recited a yoga sutra in Sanskrit and I believe it was: "Heyam dukham anagatam". She explained that it meant that we should plan for avoiding pain. In the pose she demonstrated we had to make sure the blocks were lined up correctly and in advance to avoid the pain. How true!

I was immediately drawn to her words, and it got me completely off balance and my mind recoiled back into the pain I have been suffering for many months. How can you plan to avoid pain when you have no control over the pain? I could see the physical manifestations of it with my tight shoulders and my lack of practice lately.

I was completely disheveled at that point and the pain in my mind subsumed me. My sugar levels dropped and I felt shaky. I had to take a short break to drink several cups of water. I have been avoiding pain I have been experiencing by blocking it out. I struggled through the other poses - shavasana didn't seem as relaxing. It took tremendous strength and effort to finish the class.

It occurred to me that there seems to no end to my mental pain despite all the attempts I take to deal with it. So when I came home, I decided to look up this sutra and really understand what Patanjali was talking about. So here are some excerpts from Guruji's book Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Heyam Dukkham Anagatam

The pain which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.

Past pain is finished. Pain that we are in the process of experiencing cannot be avoided, but can be reduced to some extent through yogic practice and discriminative knowledge. Unknown future pains can be prevented now by adhering to yogic discipline.

Patanjali says that yoga is a preventative healing art, science and philosophy by which we build up defenses in our body and mind to counteract painful afflictions that are yet to attack us. It will help us to face the spiritual bliss if and when thanks to our good actions in former lives, the spiritual gate is open.

I am immediately reminded of Gehlek Rimpoche's philosophy of maintaining positive emotions and actions and how they carry through our incarnation and I see the connection with this sutra. Patanjali says that spiritual light can be shattering, so we should stabilize our body and mind with yoga to help with our spiritual growth.

Reading this sutra brought me some peace of mind, a little less pain and realization that I cannot afford to get off the path of yoga no matter how much pain and obstacles come my way. It is yoga that has helped me navigate through painful times in the last many months. I must be true to this path, no matter what!

Thank you Nina for enlightening me today and helping me bring some relief to the pain I deal with every day. I am looking forward to creating a video blog with you so you can enlighten us more with your knowledge and understanding of yoga and these wonderful sutras of patanjali.


The Yogi.

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