Practice yoga with Chrissy Carter’s Chaturanga Vinyasa Flow video on GaiamTV.com.
It is impossible to know hope until one has experienced hopelessness — that feeling of suffocating permanence, as if you will be forever trapped in your present situation. In a place of hopelessness, all feels irrevocably lost. We harden and brace ourselves for permanent pain in the same way that we gather and store reserves in preparation for a long, hard winter. It’s as if the shutters have been closed and all the lights turned off. Lost in the darkness, we succumb to avidya (ignorance), the belief that our finite experience is all-pervasive and interminable. Helpless, hapless and hopeless, it is impossible to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, and we start to lose sight of the big picture.
But in these times, hope can be a light in the darkness, filtering through the slats in the shutters, shifting the shadows in our dark room from ominous to promising. Suddenly and against all odds, we can find compassion for ourselves in the face of suffering.
Ever felt yourself going through the motions of a yoga pose without focus or purpose? I think most yogis who’ve been practicing for a while have this experience, at least sometimes.
Several years ago, I found myself rushing through the Sun Salutation, praying for the series to end so I could move on to asanas I enjoyed more. I hated the way the pose strained my wrist and left me breathless, and it seemed to take forever to get through five or six of them. But since appreciating whatever you’re doing is a key spiritual teaching, I knew I had to do something to change my perspective.
I look back at my reflection as I stand on my mat in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. The mirror is only large enough to offer balance and alignment to one person in the room, and since I am the only one here, there is no need for another. A familiar teacher’s voice is riding the breath of my laptop hum as she says to “fold forward and place your fingers around your big toes.” I listen, move, breathe. This is my new yoga studio. It’s in a room thousands of miles away from where I began practicing yoga, but the practice still feels close to home.
Mountain Pose is about learning to stand on your feet and connect to Mother Earth. It is about finding the alignment of your skeleton and subtly moving in and out of a fluid center.