One of the reasons I love retreat is that it offers the opportunity to step outside the everyday routine, gain perspective on your daily choices, and recreate yourself. Upon returning from this latest retreat (St. John) I found my own yoga practice refreshed, and my sensitivity heightened. Getting out of my groove allowed me to …
Everything we do creates an imprint on our psycho-somatic selves, and when we do things repetitively, these grooves deepen. By creating grooves (samskaras), we shape the topography of our consciousness.
The good news is that you can create deep samskaras that will hold you, so that you don’t have to bring your awareness to every detail every time. We call it being in a groove, and it works for the most sublime experiences we have (think music) to the the most mundane (think brushing your teeth). It’s the Year of the Ox in the Chinese calendar, and ox energy makes me think of a steady, consistent, plowing of the soil of your self, and each pass on the field deepens the furrrows.
The bad news is that you can create deep samskaras that will hold you, in such a way that you are captive to them and no longer pay attention to what your’e doing. And sometimes, you create samskaras that reallly aren’t serving you, but you fall into those deep furrows and it’s hard to pull out of them, even once we have the awareness that it’s not what we want. We call that being in a rut.
You may have felt both of these experiences of samskaras in your yoga practice. For example, think about the first time you learned that the head of the armbones go back. Exactly. At first, it doesn’t even mean anything (what’s the head of the armbone? which way is back?). And then you try it, and it might feel strange, and then you do it again, and then again, and after a while, you don’t even have to think about plugging the armbones into the shoulder sockets. They’re just there. You’ve created a samskara that holds the alignment for you.
The peril is that we get stuck there, and stop paying attention to whether the alignment we’re creating is really serving us.
I found this in my own yoga practice. When I came to Anusara Yoga, I was also new to yoga, and I learned early on that the heads of the armbones always go to the back plane of the body. And so I was blessed with several years of deepening asana practice without any injuries or issues with my shoulders, or neck, or elbows, or wrists. And then one day, I felt that my right arm wouldn’t integrate, and then it got persistently worse. And after another several months I finally realized that the samskara I had created with the action of Muscle Energy in the arms was not aligned with the deeper topography of myself.
This deep topography is what we call the “inner body” or energy body, and in my case, my inner body was slightly askew. Actually, for all of us (I believe) it’s asymmetrical (how could it be otherwise?), except that it’s not necessarily noticeable.
Basically, I found that I had doing Muscle Energy on top of a slight asymmetry in my inner body