The Alchemy of Yoga

One day, while taking my yoga teacher training at White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara with Tracey Rich and Ganga White, Tracey had us take a block of time to do a creative practice where she gave no formal guidance or instruction.  She told us to let our bodies move guided only by our own intuition. I stood on my mat staring as if I was looking for something. My intuition perhaps? Well, I can tell you, I didn’t find it. I moved awkwardly trying really hard to figure out what posture my body felt like moving into.  My perception of that exercise was that I failed miserably. I attributed my failure to a lack of knowledge. A lack of not having enough asanas (postures) in my repertoire to access. It took years for me to realize that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I was using my mind the whole time. I was trying to think my way through the practice.

Yoga helps to establish the mind/body connection, but there is really more to it. Tracey was trying to get us to transcend thought  just like what we do in meditation. There is no thinking or analyzing at this level.  Intuition is a state of ‘knowing.’  It does not rely on information from books. And intuition does not originate in the mind in the way we normally see the mind (as the brain). Or maybe it does in some part of the right side, but it wasn’t in the part of the brain I was functioning in. The point is that we can’t ‘think’ and ‘intuit’ at the same time, no matter how good we are at multi-tasking.

In addition to this state of ‘knowing’, intuition is a ‘feeling.’  “I have a gut feeling about something,” means I know something without having any information that would logically lead me to what I feel.  So in this yoga exercise, I should have been ‘feeling’ what my body needed and how it wanted to move, instead of rummaging through my mental hatha yoga catalog trying to pick a posture.  Yes, I needed to have an academic knowledge of asana. But, as with any kind of knowledge, there comes a tipping point where true integration takes place.  That point where the depth of knowledge triggers a change or transition into the expanded awareness from which intuition shines through.  This profound change is alchemy. We literally become the practice.

I’ve gotten much better at allowing intuition guide my asana practice.  If you are used to popping in a DVD all the time when you do your yoga, try letting your intuition be your guide and feel the difference. Experiencing your practice as a moving meditation can be more purposeful and transformative than always following a set routine.

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