Summer has officially begun! Here on the East Coast we are experiencing long, hot days and the accompanying extra levels of expansiveness and energy. Maybe you agree that it is so much easier to get out of bed in the morning when the sky is already bright and blue.
The extra sunlight we get to bask in may be just a reminder of the inner light each one of us is destined to discover. In fact, you may enjoy looking at the word ‘Light’ itself and reflecting upon the many meanings we ascribe to this word.
In one definition we use the word light to mean radiant and luminous. In another we use the word light to mean buoyant and weighing less or weightless. In another, we say someone is 'bright' or 'brilliant' to illustrate intelligence. It's occurred to me that we can work on developing our relationship with these 3 aspects of light through physical yoga practice.
Employing Bandhas (energetic locks) and connecting with the Prana Vayu (uplifting inner energy) while practicing yoga can enhance a student's sense of feeling light. Often we relate so much with the pull of gravity that there is no sense of being able to float or fly upward. In many ways, the practice of yoga is kick-starting this ascending current on multiple levels! By connecting with the inner current of energy that is seeking to merge with the sky, students find themselves moving with more grace, control and buoyancy.
Also, by unlocking the hips - the body's center of gravity - often a feeling of weightlessness is perceived. See for yourself: spend 5 or 10 minutes sinking into sleeping pigeon, or ankle-to-knee pose, and then move toward a handstand, headstand, or arm balance. You may discover that the floor is hard to find!
Our moods often 'lighten up,' too. Suddenly the things that used to inspire dramatic outbursts are seen with a clearer perspective and recognized as not being that serious. It's as if we become more firmly established within and connected to the things that are truly valuable, and, like lotus blossoms, find ourselves floating above the mire that used to weigh us down.
Awakening an inner intelligence is also achieved through dedicated yoga practice. We start to recognize the cause-and-effect cycle of thoughts, words and deeds. This intelligence begins to witness when our own behavior is at odds with what we state as our highest values, and we start to make choices that will reduce the suffering we cause to ourselves and others. This inner-knowing may prevent you from moving quickly toward the deepest expression of a pose, for example, before you are warmed up enough to feel steady, sweet and sustained by breath in that shape. This inner intelligence helps you distinguish when you are operating purely from ego, which often leads to injury, from when you are embodying the Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering the fruits of effort to something you hold as higher than yourself).
As for the radiant and luminous aspect of Light, it has been stated that light is the only thing that can overcome darkness: the light of attention, the light of awareness, the light of truth. If we invert this statement, it seems also true that darkness is only a covering or veil that obscures light. On the yoga path we have the Niyama of Tapas as a tool to burn up or purify whatever darkness is covering this inner light. We can employ pranayama(s) (breathing practices), asana practice and even meditation in order to face discomfort and move beyond attachments and aversions, which surely obscure radiance. In fact, you may begin to regard the physical practice of yoga as one that it is specifically designed to put you in touch with aggression, jealousy, greed, awkwardness, insecurity and all manner of unpleasant human experiences so that you can be freed from the desire to avoid them! You learn to directly perceive what is arising, find the breath to stay with the experience, and then consciously choose to respond in a non-reactive way. By acknowledging and accepting these ‘darker’ aspects of your motivation, they become disempowered, and the light of your true self begins to shine through.
Contemplate how you feel after the physical practice of yoga. Do you feel clearer, more ‘plugged in?’ As if you are floating a few feet off the ground? Do you send mass texts of joy and gratitude to everyone in your cell phone? Do you find complete strangers smiling at you and saying ‘hi?’ Little by little perhaps you can begin to have faith and confidence that you are truly being enLIGHTened by your efforts. This is a cause for celebration!