“It’s a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way”––Christopher Morley
Similes are the stuff of…yoga. In a given yoga class, you can liken to a tree, an eagle, a fish. How about a rabbit that will thread a needle? What of a cobra who springs from a child? This isn’t the domain of Lewis Carroll. These are all transitions.
Without transition there would be no change. So this is how I see yoga: as a way of learning how to tolerate change. No matter how welcome, any change moves us out of a comfortable status quo.
Of the unlikely places I have led a weekly yoga class, the most memorable is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, for their staff. With my social work mentality, I viewed this endeavor as a community outreach program, where the organization benefits because the employees benefit. By their own account, participants who gave up their lunch break once a week for yoga found it easier to concentrate on their work afterward.
How to impart what occurred there, an hour a week, in a classroom on the lower level of the Museum, is the stuff of…similes. My witnesses, my quoted sources, in order as they appear in the following paragraph are: William Wordsworth, W.S. Merwin, Emily Dickinson, and T.S. Eliot. All yogis, no doubt.
We become receptive as water, not only the gentleness of its fluidity, but also like a wave's crash that breaks the surface of the harshness of the world––that is “too much with us; late and soon”––coming up for air––“does your air remember you o breath of morning”––that breathes into us, composes us into spirals like a nautilus, the unwinding of those chambers reminded of a further reach, we stand––“and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies”––by balancing, we seem to fly, like a wiser Icarus who learns the trick of a modicum of fire, we warm to a warrior stride, ultimately surrendering our defense, to the earth we bow and then align in humble repose––“at the still point of the turning world”.
This description is not something I would ever put on a resume. But it’s true.
“Writing is like trying to ride a horse which is constantly changing beneath you, Proteus changing while you hang on to him. You have to hang on for dear life, but not hang on so hard that he can't change and finally tell you the truth.”––Peter Elbow