asana is meditation, movement from withinby Rob Lieblein December 29, 2014 0 comments
In recent articles we’ve looked at the ways in which practicing asanas brings us into a meditative state. But sometimes the reverse is true, and attunement to meditative states can actually cause our bodies to express meditation through physical movements. This is the third stage of practice in Kripalu Yoga, and it’s often referred to as “meditation in motion.” (In traditional yoga practice this stage of practice is called pranotthana, or rising of the life force.)
In Stage 3, you allow the body to respond spontaneously to the flow of energy in whatever way it “speaks” to you. While this response may include traditional yoga poses, it can also be expressed in movements that look nothing like the asanas you practice in class (remember those old guys in caves?), or you may find yourself making noises or breathing in unfamiliar patterns. It requires you to set aside everything you’ve learned about yoga postures and breathing from books, traditions, techniques, or authorities. Inner guidance becomes your sole authority.
You’re not likely to find Stage 3 being practiced in a yoga class unless it’s part of an intensive workshop or a teacher training. On a practical level, it’s a very personal experience and one that doesn’t fit well into a 60- or 90-minute class because every individual’s response can be so different.
Stage 3 also involves surrendering on many levels, and initially the most challenging level is to let go of self-consciousness. Fear of being judged, looking ridiculous, or getting it “right” are all natural responses—you likely bump up against all of these obstacles at some point while doing traditional asanas, and it takes even more work to move past these feelings in such an unusual form of practice. However, once you are able to respond to the body’s signals without filtering them through the mind, you enter a state of transcendence that can last anywhere from a fraction of a second to several minutes or more.
So, how do you get to Stage 3? Don Stapleton offers several suggestions in his book Self-Awakening Yoga. One method is to “prime the pump” by entering a Stage 2 posture and allowing energy and sensation to build through long holding. Once you release the posture, let yourself respond to the rush of prana that is released.
Other techniques involve either speeding up or slowing down your practice as an exploration to heighten prana consciousness.
And then there is the use of stillness. Remain silent and motionless, acknowledging whatever sensations and thoughts arise. Stapleton advises that at some point you will notice that “you have forgotten not to move” and you can allow those movements to continue spontaneously. This approach, more than any other, demonstrates how intimately the two concepts of asana and meditation are connected, since movement flows directly out of the meditative act.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika it says “As salt dissolves in water, so the mind dissolves into the soul and becomes one with it.” In a Stage 3 experience, there is the potential for this dissolution of mind, body, and soul to lead you to a profound sense of discovery. But it takes practice, and, of course, a willingness to surrender.