In most yoga traditions it is acknowledged that yoga is not “just about the pose,” nor is it simply exercise or a way to relax and get flexible. (“Most” is an operative word by the way.) In re-reading David Frawley’s Inner Tantric Yoga:Working with the Universal Shakti Secrets of Mantras, Deities and Meditation, I found a brilliantly concise and to the point illumination.
Asana Shakti is the power through which we can hold the body in various asanas or yoga postures without physical or mental strain. Asana Shakti is the power to rest comfortably in a single posture without internal friction. It turns all asanas into a natural seat for meditation, in which we easily forget body consciousness and naturally move within.
To possess Asana Shakti is to be able to connect to the energy behind the form of the asana, in which the mind and prana naturally become calm. It does not mean achieving the perfect outer form of the asana, but using the asana as a conduit to allow the Shakti flow within us. Each asana has its own particular Shakti, through which its energy is released. These are reflected in the heating and cooling, expanding and contracting energies according to which the asanas are performed.
Merge into the Shakti of your favorite asana and forget about yourself as the performer of the asana or your body as the form of the asana. Let that Shakti lead you on to further asanas or to just resting in stillness. Be one with the inner flow.
“To be able to connect to the energy behind the form of the asana in which the mind and prana naturally become calm.” My teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker, often encourages us to “let go of the micro-adjusting” of the pose, and “let your soul take over.” But what is a practical way to administer Frawley and Stryker’s advice? All well and good recommendations, but how exactly can we do it?
In the words of another of my teachers, Dr. Richard Miller, it is actually a “simple affair.” It is as simple (not necessarily easy!) as breathing. I say not necessarily easy because it comes down to seeing the breath as the carrot on the stick to the pose. For many of us letting go of achieving the perfect outer form of the asana is the goal. Doing our yoga so the pose, what the body is “doing,” is secondary to the breath might be an extraordinary challenge and seeming waste of time. But to stick to the pursuit of the “carrot” of the breath right in front of our nose might just lead to a rather grand glory of self-awareness.
A little niggle with myself here. When we practice so’s to “be one with the inner flow” the body does get to “catch” the breath, unlike the single minded mule who never merges with what what it follows. But I do like the notion of a determined pursuit that draws the body closer to stillness. Of not giving up even when the object of our soul’s affection seems to elude. With determination and *Iccha Shakti, that carrot will be ours.
*More on Iccha Shakti to come…