Yoga Mind, Buddha Body

Churning the energy for the workshop I’m giving tomorrow, riding my grass green bicycle with pink handles from my Noon class to the grocery, thinking about an interview with Cyndi Lee I need to whip into a blog (stay tuned ;> , the above phrase appeared in my mind. I think Lee does a class named with the same words, associated differently.

And I thought, “Why the hell not?” Now, there’s a deeper point here about mind and body, but let’s dwell on the obvious for moment. I mean, it’s possible to do yoga and be round. Our images about what yogi’s bodies appear to be are really driven by some hippie hype images from generations ago. Those images are of sannyasin renunciates. People who have renounced, who deny themselves for spiritual reasons. I don’t mean like giving up chocolate or wine for Lent or even a really rigorous detox. I mean like de-ny. One man highlighted in Kumbha Mela (a really terrific DVD) had held his arm up for decades. It had atrophied and he’d learned to live without it. That kind of denial.

Let’s take an extreme form yoga popular now – Bikram. I think this is when the worm started to turn for me. I went to my first Bikram class (it was my last for three years) and it was led by a humorless, bodily shaven, clapping man under a photo of a teacher from India: a round, smiling, open mouth laughing man who looked like someone from whom I’d like to actually take a class.

Now, I’ve since found a new Bikram studio and have found happiness in that hot room on several occasions. It was just such a stark experience, the disconnect between projected images.  It’s true, I don’t look like a sinyasin at all. I’m further along the spectrum to one of Ruben’s women. And this does sometimes get stuck oddly in my mind. But then it’s no different than any of the other stuck bits. I take it to the mat and do some yoga with it.

And that brings me to the deeper point: it doesn’t really matter in which order we get the words “Yoga Mind, Buddha Body.” Mind is Body, Body is Mind. They’re the same, kids. Doubt it? Notice the next time you notice one of your parents’ facial expressions on your face. Notice the thoughts and feelings. You might not have been aware of them, but they were there: on your face. This is only one example, you probably can instance a dozen yourself.

Yes, there are useful distinctions to be made and how we understand the identity becomes interesting, if you like details. There’s epiphenomalism, there’s causation, there’s instantiation, there’s more. But it comes down to does the body cause the mind, does the mind cause the body, is there a factual distinction, or is it only useful to talk about them seperately?

Notice, I’m not saying brain, because hopefully we’ve all come to understand the mind is widely distributed in the body, for instance there’s scientific fact buried in our colloquial “gut feeling.” Body and mind, mind and body. If I have to choose I’ll go with mind causing body, which only sounds crazy til you take it to your yoga mat. Change your thoughts while in a pose: feel what happens in your body.

In any event, let’s agree yoga asana is done with bodies.  Aligning our bodies, the physical, breath, mind, emotion – all of them so that they’re most transparent and let the most light through, that’s important. Sometimes that takes sweat, sometimes it takes sitting, but it’s always one step closer on the mat.

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