I’m not embarrassed to admit it: prior to taking the Pranakriya 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program I didn’t know anything about yoga.
This is a slight exaggeration.
It didn’t take me long to realize yoga postures were good for my ailing shoulders. A few hours on my mat opposed to staring at my cell phone became beyond beneficial. All the while, I blindly inferred yoga was ancient, came from India and became popular in the West last century … for some reason.
What more would you need to know to move through a sun salutation?
Let’s fast forward to the third (?) weekend of the 200-hour training when William called everyone over to a TV screen and broke out his laptop. I tried (in vain) to get comfortable, propped myself against a wall and began to listen out of one ear …
Uhh … I think I’ll squeeze in another bathroom break and check my phone.
A drop of water jumping out of something called “Brahman” and proclaiming “wow” when it looks around … how is this going to help me teach someone to do downward-facing dog?
This background is important — at least in blog terms — to set up a situation that happened to me on my mat earlier this summer.
As I settled down into my comfortable seat — elongating from pelvis to crown, mind — I heard a cell phone begin to ring from the studio lobby. My reaction to this mild distraction surprised me. Rather than internally cursing the person for leaving their ringer on I thought, “wow, that’s a cell phone ringing.”
Did I unintentionally become that drop? Was I living in “wow”?
Ideally life would be experienced wholly within the realm of “wow.” When we find a place of witness, it’s much easier to pull away the domain of yes/no decisions or assigning values of good or bad to everything that crosses our field of vision. When this happens our brain and body — or specifically parasympathetic nervous system — internally say thank you.
For most living in 2019, creating a place of “wow” is often challenging. Life cannot practically sustain itself with yoga, quiet contemplation and the occasional cup of strong coffee.
On top of that, creating or returning to your place of witness takes work. Often we only think of it during the designated times we’re on our mats “doing yoga” or “doing meditation.” The more often we carve out a path to our place to witness the “wow,” the easier it is to return.
Unfortunately the responsibilities of living in modern society are designed to draw us away from this place. Even so, remember the words of Swami Kripalu, “The highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgement.”
The next time someone cuts you off on the highway will you react with f-bombs and raised fingers or will you be able to think, “wow, that driver just cut me off without warning or the courtesy of using their blinker.”
The choice is yours.
Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.
He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT [at] gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT