The imaginary realm of yoga

To say that our current pandemic shutdown / shut-in situation is strange is an understatement. At my house some days are okay and other days everything seems hard. I imagine it’s the same for you. 

Some level of acceptance for the current state of our lives is important. But I don’t think we should try to normalize a lack of contact with each other. Instead, I have been allowing myself to miss my friends, family and students. I remind myself that it’s temporary and try to turn inward on a regular basis, at least once a day. 

I think it’s hard to go inward when your nerves are really jangled. When I am very tense (which I was the week when everything was first shutting down) it’s shocking to look inward and see how tense I am. First, I have to use the physiology of the poses to calm myself down. After some semblance of calm I can peek inward again. During this high intensity anxiety my stamina for going inward seems less than usual. 

I have discovered that when going inward it’s helpful to have something constructive to do “in there.” That’s where the imaginary realm of the mind, breath, body connection comes into play.

The real vs imaginary

The body is real. The breath is real. The mind is real. But how we experience them and especially their interconnectedness is hard to define as real. Our body-mind-breath is experienced through our senses (sight, hearing, smell, etc), which do not always give us correct data. Or at best we can say it’s subjective data.

To me the interconnection of the mind-body-breath is very much in an imaginary realm. When I take a big breath in I know the air is filling my lungs–I feel that. But a big breath in, or out, sometimes effects other parts of the body too. For example, sometimes when I exhale I feel my jaws relax. How is that possible? There are no lung in my head, neck or jaws? Did I imagine it then? Did my jaw really relax? I don’t know how it happened but I think it did.

Once I have witnessed that the breath can have a direct effect on my body (not just the lungs), I can take it a step further. The next step is to inhale and exhale while consciously directing my awareness to the various body parts. For instance, I can seek out places that need to relax. I can seek out places that need to be stronger. Areas that need better integration or exploration.

From there, the sky’s the limit as far as the imagination is concerned. I can use the breath to guide the awareness / imagination to various realms within myself. I can watch the breath move in patterns forming shapes (imaginary shapes). That imaginary watching becomes meditative and gives me something “to do” in there. It makes the going in less scary or boring, and increases my stamina.

Changing gears from one state to another can feel uncomfortable. The initial step from anxiety toward a state of relaxation is indeed a challenge. When we are anxious our tendency is to want to feel more anxious. When bored we want to keep being that way. We always want to keep going in our current state or direction. I have noticed that to be particularly true for myself right now. Focusing on the imaginary realm of yoga has been a comfort.

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