Catching Wind, Empowering Practice

So many times I have found myself blown in certain directions. Mostly, though not exclusively, with incredible positive outcomes. Even gale force-like winds and maelstroms, which might have moored me into isolation or thrown me into some catastrophic disaster, would eventually abate and I would land wherever with the softness of a feather. I consider myself blessed to have had such good luck to be propelled so. I also know, that in many ways, I called for it, that I invited the elements myself to move me. Time and time again, I’ve taken myself to some peak, opened my arms in surrender, and like wings unfurled, I would get picked up and thus be transported.

I wondered, however, what would it be like if I participated more in this act of flight? The last year in particular has been about recognizing the difference between flowing with things and flying myself.

It’s been an amazing process, coming to a deeper understanding that all this raw energy can be transformed and directed. That I am not prey or play thing to the forces I perceived to be much greater than myself, but, instead, an active player, instigator, herder of energy.

There is so much in this; the world at large is packed with potential energy, raw, unharnessed. In the microcosm of us, we are likewise full of unrealized vitality and force. When we learn to access this, when we learn to use it skillfully, to move it in certain directions, something huge shifts. We are empowered.

This naturally happens when we practice. There’s this wealth of untapped energy in our bones, our connective tissues, our muscles, our breath, our thoughts and hearts. Our practice helps us soften the gross layers, physical and subtle, emotional and mental, that keep us from connecting with our own physical/metaphysical body.

When we practice with consistency over a long period of time, we start tapping into these energies, which then become apparent in the practice itself. We extract energy from the practice and it fuels us. Our bodies become efficient, so does our breath, we develop an economy of thought and effort and before we know it, we are no longer consuming energy but creating it, so ample that it overflows and drips into our lives causing all sorts of creative bounty /mayhem.

This is my tenth year of yoga practice. It’s not a very long time–I continue to feel like a babe in the woods–but it’s not a short time either. Whatever length it is, it is long enough to observe the effects of practice, how it’s changed, how it’s changed me, how my life has changed because of it.

These days in Cairo’s Nūn Center, there are a number of beginners and some students returning to practice after a substantial break. And naturally the struggles that come with starting an ashtanga practice begin to appear: the body gets tired, the mind wavers, the internal debate on whether to go to class starts when the alarm rings in the morning.

I remember my teacher saying that if you never leave your practice, it will never leave you. I still have those days where doing my own practice is like going to battle with myself. What he said, though, it’s true, and it gets me on my mat, it gets me through the first sticky sun salutation, and, eventually, the practice helps me catch wind.

Mysore Classes here at Nūn continue. Sunday to Thursday, 7:30-10am. This week, we are adding Ashtanga Basic classes Monday and Wednesday at 7pm. These classes can be used as an introduction to the morning Mysore program. Drop ins and all levels are welcome! 


Catching Wind


The wind of practice–how to explain this, how even in the most humid of rooms (such as the one I am currently practicing in here in Mysore, India) there is this light energy that sweeps one up, and we fly, breezing from one posture to another, flowing through the different layers of body: the physical body, the mind body, the pranic body.

It is the energy of the room, we are lifted by the breath, our own and the collective breath, as well.

For some years now, I have relished this phenomenon here in Mysore. I have enjoyed being blown about; surrendering to it has been a journey, and I have often greatly delighted and surprised at where this wind has taken me. Furthermore, this wind blows quite far and has propelled me to all sorts of places, all sorts of life lessons and experiences.

The time comes, however, when we must pilot these winds, when we must actively participate in our own flying, when we must take responsibility for determining our directions, for the strength of our own breath, when soaring whichever way is a choice not a matter of happenstance.

And when this time comes, do unfurl those sails, do allow the wind to power you, as you steadily take the wheel, steering yourself to wherever new or old lands you feel compelled to go to, taking support from the wind but– all the same– doing your own flying.

PHOTO: Among the toys and trinkets for sale at Nanjangud’s Shiva Temple during Shivaratri last month. Karnataka, India.