Masks We Wear

Unmask

We all have different masks we wear. Some, we hide behind. Some, we use as a shield to protect ourselves. These figurative masks can be tools of evasion, of subterfuge, of inauthenticity.

But what of the mask of practice, this mask of yoga which we put on each time we get on the mat? The face inevitably changes as we get into the flow–and at times, some kind of strange, indescribable thing happens. And we call it “yoga.”

What is this? Is this real? Or are we just pretending for the moment, wearing a guise of yoga?

In Africa, traditional masks, such as these pictured above, are used in ritual practices often with music and dance. The mask helps the wearer conceal his human identity and helps him transform into a medium between the earthly and spriritual realms

The mask of practice works similarly.

We come into it, this sacred ritual: the steady gaze and breath, the stoic expressionlessness of the face, only to disengage with our identifications with the self and attachments that come with that self.

And then, we dance. We dance to the most primordial sound, the rhythm of our own breath, communicating, connecting for that brief moment with something that exists beyond ourselves.

Photo: Traditional African mask collection in a shop in Aswan’s (Upper Egypt) souk.

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