What do you do when everything is going so fast that you just want to hit the brakes? Or when life seems sluggish and you want to get moving? What about when your body is feeling great but you just can’t seem to focus on the important task? Or when you’re just frustrated at having to wait for the action to begin? Today’s Kosher Sutra is about achieving the perfect balance of stillness and movement, getting your body and soul into perfect harmony. It will help smooth out the kinks and show you how to use Bibliyoga to rebalance your life.
Our scene resumes in Egypt. Moses is about to lead the people out of Egypt and responds to their extreme doubts and anxieties by making a promise which is refuted by God: ‘But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Collect yourselves and see the salvation which [God] will make for you today…[God] will fight for you and you will be still.” Then [God] said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to just get going” ‘(Exodus 14:13-15). This powerful translation was by the Zen Rabbi, Alan Lew, author of Be Still and Get Going. It speaks for itself and rather than add a single word of explanation, I’ll encourage you to read the quote once again.
The theory and practice of vinyasa yoga brings together movement and stillness in one great swoop. ‘Vinyasa’ is the Sanskrit word that describes bringing together breath and movement, so that we achieve a rhythm in our body that synchronises everything. When we get it right – such as when doing a sun salutation – we inhale and lift our arms, matching the movement to the length of the breath and focusing our mind on this inhalation. Our body, mind and movement come together in perfect unity and this is why yoga is a form of moving meditation.
When our mind is furiously pacing in different directions we can use a vinyasa yoga practice to get our body to speed up and our mind to slow down, and when we are feeling sluggish and lethargic we can kick-start our body and mind through this practice. What really increases the benefit is adding this Kosher Sutra as an intention, using Moses’ injunction to ‘be still’ and God’s direction to ‘get going’.
There are elements of vinyasa even in standing poses, as we keep an internal sense of movement when our breath is powerful engaged. My yoga master Edward points out that stillness is only ever an illusion as we might be standing in one place but we are on a planet that is spinning and revolving around a sun that is in a galaxy that is moving through the universe. We draw together these contradictions, and live with the confusing paradoxes of life by engaging in a prayer that involves our body and our soul.
Tomorrow marks Tu b’Shvat, the new year for trees, and there is a sense of both movement and stillness in trees. They are standing in one place but continually moving, growing, transforming and reacting to the environment around them. The wisdom of the Torah is described as a Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18) and human beings are also compared to a ‘tree of the field’ (Deut: 20:19). We can take this quite literally in our standing postures, by rooting ourselves into the ground with our feet and using the breath and physical alignment to lift ourselves upwards. We engage with each pose to the absolute limits of our capability – our breath, body and mental focus – and remain still whilst moving inside.
It isn’t easy to maintain inner stillness when we are in a flurry or on a journey that contains surprises. This journey has a name: life. In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda describes a rollercoaster of events, meeting mystics and teachers that present themselves as he is open to receive them. The folk-saying goes that ‘when a student is ready, the teacher will appear’, and if we can be strong-minded enough to take what life throws our way – by maintaining stillness in our movement – we can open to receive incredible gifts and outstanding teachers.
I really like the comparison of humans to trees as trees can give us something to aspire to. A tree is in a unique position to be able to give, as it can produce fruit, provide shelter, give oxygen to the planet, refuge to animals, support a local ecosystem….or when we pulp it to pieces it can make our Sunday newspaper. On a serious note, a tree is still but can go with the flow of life, bending and yielding to the winds and recreating itself each year as a new season rolls around.
Have a refreshing weekend and try putting this Kosher Sutra into practice by locating the stillness within and see if you can maintain that sense of calm whilst moving through the yoga sequence, and whilst moving through your day. The world has enough stress and anxiety so let’s do our bit to send out some goooooood vibrations.
THE KOSHER SUTRA © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
**Bibliyoga practice: Sun Salute 'A'**
1. Stand at the front of your mat with your feet touching.
2. Inhale your hands up so that they touch above your head.
3. Exhale bringing your hands out to the side and fold from the hips to a forward bend.
4. Inhale looking up and exhale jumping back to plank position.
5. Lower yourself to the ground and inhale up to a cobra.
6. Exhale to Downward Dog and take five breaths here.
7. On the fifth exhale, bend your knees and inhale jumping forwards to a forward bend.
8. Exhale folding forwards.
9. Inhale to standing, with your hands up above your head.
10. Exhale with hands down to either side, to Mountain pose.