When I was at Kripalu, I lived in a building back up on the hill, in the woods. Nearby, there dwelled a big, white, stray cat, and that cat would sometimes bring us presents. On one particular occasion, I found the cat wandering around inside the building with a still-living squirrel in its mouth. I knew I couldn’t let the cat rip its prey to shreds inside, but before I could even act, the squirrel freed itself, weaved between my feet, and scurried off down the hall. The cat took off after the squirrel, and I ran off after both of them. When I caught up with them outside, the cat was sitting at the bottom of the tree, the squirrel on a limb 30 feet high. The two remained motionless until all of a sudden, the squirrel opened its mouth and howled. It was a horrible sound that just went on, and on, and on. Then it finally stopped howling, and its feet started to move, doing this little dance, and its whole body was shaking. And then it stopped dancing and it howled again. And then it shook, and then it howled. It just went back and forth and back and forth for probably 10 minutes. Then it just jumped onto another branch and ran away.
What was the squirrel doing? Was it choosing to make those sounds? Was it thinking, now stay with the beat, lift 1 foot, then lift the other foot, one two, one two? No, the movement was natural; the biological system was naturally discharging the new information and energy as fast as it could. The squirrel was acting spontaneously.
In yoga, there is a type of practice that reflects what happened to the squirrel: one makes his energy really high and allows for the natural response to occur. It’s just the machine winding down; it’s the spring unwinding; it’s the charged experiences inside releasing out. Swami Kripalu called this spontaneous yoga. The practice is very freeing: one moves into actions without being responsible for his movements. When things come up unexpectedly in practice, one just lets them happen. It’s the same type of movement as occurs in the intensity of a sexual experience–one’s movements happen all by themselves through the channel of energy. For example, if you are in bridge pose, and you’ve flooded your body with energy in the same way that you flood your body with energy in the sexual experience, might your body move spontaneously? Might those same free movements happen in your heart as emotion, or in your mind as thought? Just like the squirrel, heightened by the chase, reflexively sprang into a strange cycle of song and dance, so also can a yogi allow his practice to flow from one pose to another automatically and freely.