Sitting with awareness
Use the blindfold, so that you screen out the rest of the universe. You are going to sit for ten minutes and I want you to keep the body still for ten minutes, because we do not want an interruption. If you do need to stretch your legs and change, do so without disturbing your body, and then bring your body back on the wall again, the head on the wall.
Sit with your back towards the wall and wedge the sacrum against the wall, but let the rest of the trunk leans forward at an angle of eighty degrees away from the wall. Between the shoulder blades and the wall there should be a couple of inches space. Do not keep the elbows on the wall; I want you to be fairly comfortable and relaxed. The head stays in line with the trunk; do not bring the head forward or down.
This is an exploration of your own inner universe. Each one of us is a grain of sand in the outer universe, but within the grain of sand there is also an inner universe. Originally I think that yoga was meant to get you in touch with that inner world; not with your inner head, but with the inner being, with the inner ‘you’.
What happens nowadays is that people, through obeying, through getting the rules and obeying them, create an outer posture, which is like a shadow posture on the outside of the body, but within the body, within the skin, within the inner universe, there is no posture. The important thing is to not create an outer shadow play, but to create something real on the inside. To do that you have to take complete control of your airplane.
That means that you are the only one who can deal with your own body, nobody else can do that for you. You alone can take your exploration, can take your expedition inside your body and inside the connection between your body and your mind. Nobody can tell you how to do it; this is not a how-to situation. This is a situation where you are the explorer, and you are the Amazon river or forest that you are exploring.
The body, this organ, which is inside the skin, in reality extends far beyond the skin. But for the moment we will just deal with the skin as a dividing line between the inner and the outer world. Later on we will change that. In this inner body we need to find out where the collisions are.
Most of us, through improper exercise, through stress, etc., create an enormous amount of collision areas inside the body. A collision area means that muscles and bones collide instead of co-operate. We need to find those places, and then we need to get rid of those collision areas. We need to re-structure the body in such a way that the body is again floating on the gravitational line, instead of sinking underneath it.
To do that certain parts of the body need to be activated, and other parts of the body need to be softened or neutralized. The collision happens when we are using ineffective muscles to do certain things. The human body is a vertical body, which means that the spinal column is aligned vertically on the gravitational field. If you try to keep the body on the gravitational field with the wrong muscles, this is where you create collision areas.
The vertical body, the vertical spine has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is that it is very unstable. As long as it is on the gravitational line it is ok, but the moment it goes off from it, it creates havoc because instability sets in. This is what you see in almost every human body. So the disadvantage is the instability. On the other hand, the instability is also an advantage, as it makes the body very mobile. If we manage to bring the body back on the gravitational line, the more you can do so, the more the body can let go of those collision areas, because it does not need all those muscles to keep from falling.
In all the postures, whatever you do, standing, walking, yoga postures, etc., there is always a chance of falling, because the whole structure of the human body balances on two small feet, or on two small hands, like in Full arm balance. This is very precarious. The only posture which is totally safe, let us say, is savasana, because in savasana there is no way you can fall further. The whole body has completely fallen. Savasana is a horizontal posture where every single part of the body has fallen to the floor. Therefore it is a real good ‘lie detector’ to find collision areas.
Today we do padmasana against the wall, so we need to deal with the gravitational force. Now place the shoulder blades flat against the wall and also the back of the head. This is your vertical alignment on the gravitation field, because the wall is completely vertical. In that way, your spine being aligned on the wall, it is vertical.
(Note: Even though you start with the back on the wall, to be in touch with gravity and to have the freedom to move you need to then ‘lean’ the body slightly forward at an angle of 80 °)
As I was saying before, the vertical body is always in a state of alarm, because anything can throw it for a loop, any movement you make can throw this whole body out of alignment and bring it crashing down to the floor. Anybody who has small children knows this. Therefore the body has an incredible amount of co-ordination and muscle activity – of which you are completely unaware – to prevent this structure from falling. The more you allow the structure to go out of the proper alignment, the more frantic this inner activity becomes in order to prevent it from falling. Thus that becomes a collision area.
The first thing to do is to come back to the gravitational alignment, and then we have to find those areas where there is a chronic alarm situation going on. Almost everybody has those, because almost everybody is out of alignment. We have to find out where those chronic alarm situations are, and then see if we can undo them and bring the relaxed tone of the body back into that area.
Most people are unaware of their spine, so I want to start right there. Keeping your body on the wall, focus your attention on your spinal column. When teaching we use the eyes, because you have to see the other person, but when we deal with our own body, we go through the ears, or something that you might call ears. It is not really ears, it is not hearing, but it is an inner ear, an inner awareness. It has something vaguely to do with the balance point inside the ears, that is why I like to call it the ears. Through that inner balance point in the ears the body always knows what is the upright position, otherwise we would all be dumplings.
That is why I make you practice blindfolded, so that you can listen inside your body and then zoom your attention in on the spinal column. Now, when you want to work on the body, and especially on the alignment and on the gravitational force, you start from the point of the body where you are in touch with the ground. Like when you build a house, you start with the first bricks on the floor, you do not start with the roof.
At the base of the spine are the sacroiliac joints, the sacrum and the coccyx. Just above the sacrum there is the sacral-lumbar joint, which is one of the most stressed joints in the body, because the spine makes a very sharp angle here to connect with the sacrum. By lifting heavy objects, by wrong posture etc. that angle, that pressure, is increased.
Bring your attention to that triangle of the two sacroiliac joints and the sacral-lumbar joint. Feel, in the first place, whether that triangle is pressing equally on the wall. If the pelvis is not completely straight, but tilted, then one sacroiliac joint may be more pressing into the wall than the other. In that case you have to slightly fidget to bring both sacroiliac joints equally onto the wall. Do so silently, though.
The first thing you need to learn in yoga in order to make the body a healthy instrument is to create space inside the body. The body needs very little. The body is made of zillions of atoms, it is for the largest part energy, and we constrict that energy, we tighten that energy. Energy, in nature, wants to take more space, it wants to move. When you look at clouds, which are a form of energy, or when you look at a steaming kettle, there is an expansion going on, a movement. That is the nature of energy. You can feel how this triangle is very small, the joints are all pulling into each other, and there is no expansion.
To undo tension, there is nothing you can ‘do.’ Anything you ‘do’ to undo tension is to create more tension. The only way to undo tension and to create space is by paying attention, by placing your attention in that area. Attention is the key that unlocks the energy; there is no other key. Just watch that triangle, watch it very friendly, and do not try to ‘do’ anything about it. Just watch it like you would watch an animal. Then you can see how that triangle begins to expand, the sacroiliac joints start moving away from each other, and the sacrum begins to gently drop down to the floor. The breathing very soft and relaxed, do not make a noise with your breathing.
Then shift your awareness higher up, into the lumbar spine. You can feel that the more you place your attention on the lumbar spine, the more the vertebrae will stop colliding into each other, and will create space to go up.
Then move up into the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine especially is a very fertile area to feel the unfolding. The weight of the head is always pressing down on the vertebrae, so make the head light. Ideally, in order to elongate the spinal column, we need to bring the ears back in line with the shoulder joints, but there are two ways of doing it. Usually people use the muscles to do that. That is not what I want you to do. I want you to use your imagination. With your imagination move the head very slowly backwards. Imagination, or visualization, is a force. Not a muscle force; but a different type of force.
Visualization is a force that acts on the energy in the body, while thinking is a force that acts on the muscle energy. In visualization there is no thought energy and no muscle energy involved. You simply kind of feel your way backwards with the back of the head. Feeling your way backwards will then pull your head back. Then feel your way upwards with the back of the head and the top of the head. Feel how gradually your head wants to go up. It is not that you want it to go up, but it is the head itself that wants to go up. That will then lighten the load on the thoracic spine.
Once the thoracic spine elongates upwards like this, bring your awareness to the sides of the body, the left and the right side of the spinal column. Again this is only a question of the imagination. Feel that the whole left and right side of your body, and the back, want to move sideways, away from the spinal column. It is not a question of you pulling it sideways. It is a question of your imagination giving the green light, as it were, to that squeezed up energy to expand.
Certain areas are heavy-duty collision areas, for instance the shoulders, the trapezius muscles. Keeping the head light and high watch your trapezius muscles, watch the shoulders; do not try to ‘do’ anything. Trying to ‘do’ something is the worst you can do. Just watch it, watch how the tension pulls the shoulders in towards the sternum, and up towards the ears. Keep the head high and backwards and do not allow it to drop. You can start first of all imagining that you have an iron hook on top of your head with a cord hanging from the ceiling, and this cord is attached to the iron hook, pulling you up.
Then go back to the trapezius muscles and the shoulders and just work your attention inside there. Do not do anything. Attention is the key that unlocks tension. Just by watching the shoulders, by watching the trapezius, by watching the shoulder blades, you feel how gradually the tissues around those areas kind of swell up, like the steam, like the cloud. When you are heating water, it becomes steam, which then expands. Your attention is like the heating process that makes the energy inside those collision areas expand, and that is relaxation, that is real relaxation. Not just going dumb and limp, and falling asleep.
The attention has to be very sharp, that is why nobody can do this for you, you are the saviour of your body, and nobody else. To save your body, you need to train your attention to unlock the collision areas in your body.
Tomorrow we will add breathing, but now, without opening your eyes, just slide away from the wall, lie on your back and do Savasana, without disturbing the body or the mind. Keep the eyes covered with the blindfold. Do not wriggle; do not do anything, just lie on your back. Let the energy continue expanding, let your body continue expanding in all directions, not because you use the muscle force, but because you look at your energy with your attention, and therefore you are giving it the green light.