Monday, November 3, 2008

Chutes and Ladders


Do you remember the game from long ago, or for those of you with kids, maybe you have it in your closet - Chutes and Ladders? If memory needs to be jogged, it’s where you follow a road with your game piece and every now and then you get to climb up a ladder and every now and then you fall down a slide. First one to the top wins.

I’ve decided the yogic path is kinda like Chutes and Ladders.

We have all made a commitment of some kind when we stepped on this path - some of us have decided to see it all the way through, others of us travel along for some duration and have parted ways for a while.

But when it comes right down to it, we are all on the same board, the same path. Some of us have traveled farther ahead, while others of us seem to keep landing on the darn chute square and sliding down. But the important thing is to get back up, dust off the trousers and move forward. How does the “game” end? I suppose, in keeping with the analogy, with enlightenment or samadhi, but that might be getting a bit more philosophical than I care to on a Monday ‘cause then I’d need to discuss karma and dharma and reincarnation and Eastern philosphy....

Try this: a yoga class is a lot like Chutes and Ladders.

Some days we struggle with our bodies, trying to morph them into a form a flexy-bendy yoga instructor up front is demonstrating. They make it look so easy - head dropping back, the spine long, shoulders opening, and it seems so obvious when they say engage Moola bandha. Yet when we go to attempt said asana, our shoulders become inflexible, our neck feels crinked, the spine’s not moving anywhere and you’re quite certain moola bandha is something only found on a sacred cow. You think to yourself, I’m slidin’ down the chute, man!

But other days, wow, other days we come to the mat and our center is right there. Our breath seems to miraculously pick us up and place us in the pose. We gain an inch reaching into that forward fold or back bend or we’re rock solid in a balance pose and we think, cool! I’m climbing up the ladder today!

But that thought process is reversed - the days we feel “off” should be our ladder days, because that’s when we need to be most aware of what our bodies and minds are doing and that is what yoga about. The yoga path is not about “getting it”. It's bringing one pointed focus to the mind. It’s about understanding the journey along the way.

And that is when we truely start moving up the ladder.

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