Last weekend was PRIDE, which is a full on holiday in San Francisco! There was a lot of talk this year about it being the 40th anniversary and how much progress has been made. Yes indeed, the freedom for all beings to express themselves is a wonderful thing to celebrate! The streets were packed with people sporting the colors of the rainbow, drag queens dressed to the nines while some barely dressed at all. While they were all gathering for the festivities and the pending parade, I was teaching class. It seemed to me that on this day, it was just as important to pray for tolerance, as it was to celebrate.
The highest purpose of our yoga practice is to know yourself, to discover your truth, cultivate your gifts and express it all by delighting in life and living fully. Similarly, the very definition of pride is having deep satisfaction and pleasure for who are you, your accomplishments and expressing it. Pride is everyday in the way that you dress, act, and participate in the world. Pride is yoga.
I have been studying and practicing both Anusara® Yoga and Rajanka® Yoga for several years now. I was drawn to both because they are empowering practices and each speak about discovering who you are, cultivating your gifts and talents, and realizing that you contain all you need within you to live a powerful and wonderful life.
While this is true and life changing for many of us, it is important to also remember that our practice begins with humility; A genuine recognition that there is a Supreme Power greater than us at work that we honor first and endeavor to co-create with. By definition our own freedom (svatantriya which means self-looming in Sanskrit – see previous post) means that others too are free to express themselves in the world. To live in harmony in this world we must first develop humility and tolerance. This is part of the first principle of Anusara Yoga we call Open To Grace.
In Anusara Teacher Training the first skill we are taught is to see the good in others, in life and in the world. We practice looking for the beauty and honoring one another for their gifts and contributions with recognition that Supreme Intelligence exists in everyone and everything before us. As many of us know this is not always so easy to see, that is why it is part of our yoga practice.
Both Anusara and Rajanaka also have a great emphasis on community. There has never been a notion that we become empowered to stand-alone or to be self-centered. The essence of this practice has always been about cultivating yourself to offer your gifts back to the whole. That the difference YOU make weaves richness into the tapestry; it brings more artistry to the Merry Band. When you shine, we all shine! In this way, our awakening and evolution becomes a collective endeavor. My teacher Douglas’ Brooks even talks about deferring to another’s gifts, why do I have to do it all myself?
I believe that tolerance is the natural result of having pride in one’s self, or truly becoming sovereign (the meaning of Rajanaka) onto one self. When you are whole-heartedly YOU, there is simply not a threat by another expressing them self. Furthermore you begin recognize the natural abundance and order in the Universe and realize that there is no reason to be selfish.
Right now, there is more and more recognition that humanity is a global community and must work together to overcome the challenges that face us in this modern world. It starts in our Kulas, (yoga community) where we learn and practice supporting one another to open to their fullest potential. We create a paradigm of connectivity and bridge the gap between us in a way that we all can flourish.
Something beautiful unfolded in class on that PRIDE day. I instructed the students to partner in groups of 3 to deepen their Urdhva Danurasana (wheel pose). One student supporting the shoulders and another rooting the legs to allows the practitioner open their backbend a little deeper.
A dedicated immersion student named Ray demonstrated a beautiful opening. In the demo I explained it was not about making someone into something they are not or about forcing someone deeper but rather standing in yourself fully and being a support for them to unfold and expand to their potential. When Ray came out he said when he felt the supportive hands of my self and my assistant the fear dissolved and he felt safe to go into the unknown and open more fully.
As the students got into their groups and helped each other a greater level of ananda (joy) washed over the room. Once everyone had a go it was clear that each experienced a deeper opening in the pose but almost more importantly, they noticed there was just as much pleasure in supporting and witnessing another to realize a greater expansion.
I don’t think I will forget the bhava (feeling or vibe) in the room after that experience for a long time. It reminds me exactly why I do what I do. And it is with great gratitude I thank you for being participating.