It’s the humanness that is conveyed in the yoga myths that really cultivates a deep rumination on my own patterns and habits. For instance, the story of Warrior is of a man who is so consumed by rage and pain and vengeance that he takes the life of another. Transformation happens when the grief of his vengeance helps him to soften his initial reaction and look for a way to reconcile through compassion. When I teach this common pose, I often ask students to consider the tricky balance between strength and softness, and that within the softness lies the greatest ability for unshakeable strength. It’s the story of this pose that shines a light in me on these qualities, so that the pose becomes more than a way to build leg and core strength or to create expansion around the chest cavity. While these physical elements are indeed a part of the pose, the story helps me to consider another layer that can help point a light into places where I can develop personal transformation. That is truly exciting to me. When we consider these stories from our perspective, we may begin to consider more deeply our relationship to the stories we’ve learned to tell ourselves about life. We get to consider if what we think about ourselves is true, or instead if it’s “real” because we’ve never thought to see life differently than that story.
Recently, I’ve been working on a relationship to the myth story of the Phoenix. The mythological bird, golden and gentle, who burns herself to ash once she’s realized her glorious song and presence are no longer shining brightly in the world, rises from this ash in a kind of resurrection back into the world. I find this story particularly appropriate now, during spring, renewal, Easter. I’ve been working on seeing the way that this story plays out on the mat as I try to learn how I can burn my preoccupations, my limitations, and my habitual patterns, to ash as I cultivate internal “heat” both physically and mentally in my yoga practice. Then, from ash, can I rise anew, finding in me the rich potential that is held within the bud, as I learn how to grow into something more expansive and full?
I find that story and myth becomes then another way of cultivating deep attention in my yoga practice. It’s not that I’m not trying to live out some myth, or to literally become like the story; rather, it’s the theme of story that allows me to work to understand myself more intimately and grow a relationship to transformation through the deep attention that these themes help me to engage in. So, there it is–transformation on the mat. The kind of transformation I mean is that which helps me to unravel the stories that I’ve learned to believe make me whom I am, and instead rise up as a more full and expansive human, able to engage in the world with my eyes–both those looking outward and those looking inward–open to discovering the truth, not just what feels real.