Expanding the vision of self

 “the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you...” Mary Oliver


If we find a true teacher, they can show us the way to freedom from the bondage we create for ourselves. The path of progress in yoga requires discipline and sincerity.

When I was younger, my teacher made it clear when I wasn’t ready for the advanced postures. I remember he taught this pose in the advanced class, almost 16 years ago. He said, basically, “roll the front thigh out. the front pelvic head should press the foot, the back upper thigh rolls out. If you can’t do that, you aren’t ready for more.” We weren’t allowed to bend the back leg. He kept a firm grip on the class. Now I recognize the love in that forbidding tone.

In practice, in life, the student has the choice to decide to listen to a teacher’s guidance. Are the teachings trustworthy? What will happen if we learn to follow their lead?  The wise teacher shows the student how to navigate beyond the ego and perform their real work.  The student has to mature enough to work on the lessons given, to be ready for the next steps. I have, eventually, let the practice unfold from the foundations, as I’ve been taught, and it’s astonishing what happens.

Last fall, shortly after a teaching-related strain, there was a workshop with my teacher. Not yet healed, i felt a little scared about not knowing what was safe to do in my practice, and told him that. He stared in my eyes directly saying emphatically, “YOU can do EVERYTHING.” Then he repeated it.

It isn’t that everything is coming easily. It takes intelligent preparation. It isn’t that there’s never imbalances or pains or stressors—those happen. Iyengar Yoga practice really does teach how to take care of oneself, giving the tools address the issues, a methodology for taking the right steps forward and learning under all the changing conditions. Once we realize that, we are free.

In the wholeheartedness of concentration,” the poet Jane Hirshfield wrote in her inquiry into the effortless effort of creativity, “world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”