Tag Archive for: Shiva

Axis Yoga Teacher Training students’ series of experiments culminates with a “personal” experiment. Taking into account all they have learned, students examine any piece of the yogic puzzle on a personal level. This student came full circle as she realized that what she had been aiming for in the beginning of her experiment came around to surprise her in the end. And it was an enriching journey along the way.

When I began this personal experiment I was certain that I wanted to do a project revolved around meditation and/or spirituality. Lately, I have been very drawn to Bhakti yoga, and for some reason the name and entity of Shiva has been popping up into my life. It’s been happening so often that I can’t ignore it or dismiss it as coincidence. I felt like I was being told to meditate and pray to Shiva for my personal experiment. It seemed perfect! It made total sense! Everything was fitting into place so nicely…until I couldn’t find a book to go along with my plan.

Try as I might, I could not find a book on the mythological legends of or guided meditations on Shiva. Besides being surprised, I felt almost hurt that I couldn’t find the type of book I wanted. Everything seemed so neat and tidy so why was this part of the plan not working out? Discouraged I went to yet another library to search for my ideal book, which I didn’t find. Instead I found The Inner Life of Asanas by Swami Lalitananda. I decided that if my personal experiment was ever going to get done that I would need to scrap my initial proposal, and so I picked The Inner Life of Asanas to base my personal experiment off of.

The Inner Life of Asanas is comprised of different yoga poses described by a personal story of the author (or mythological tale she’s heard regarding the pose), physical ways to practice the pose, and reflections on the pose. I found the little stories fun and sometimes beautiful. The physical how-tos on how to practice the asanas were nice but nothing new since I have spent so much time in the teacher training learning how to do asana. What I ended up enjoying about the book were the reflection sections on each pose. It’s there that I realized what my personal experiment really was.

After practicing the pose I would write down my answers to the reflection questions. An example of such a question about bakasana (crane pose) was, “ Visualize a crane and try to embody its qualities. Ask: What are you afraid of? When you work with Crane pose, can you peer beneath the surface to see the root of the fear?” The book describes bakasana as, “the yoga of falling on your face” which I thought was fitting since I can barely do bakasana before I panic at the thought of crashing head first into the floor. When I did the reflection writing I was sort of surprised that I wrote, “I’m afraid of failing.” I wrote failing, not falling. Freudian slip initiated by a yoga pose. It’s true though; I’m terrified of failing in my life.

What my personal experiment became was, as the book suggests, was finding the inner life of asanas. Even though I knew that asanas were more than just physical poses, the book helped me to really see the spiritual and psychological core behind the actions. It also helped me to become sensitive to emotional and spiritual reactions I had to each asana and how my feelings manifested themselves in my body. After a lot of meditating on why I was afraid of failing, and accepting that I if I fell over in crane pose then I fell over, I was able to do a very beautiful and sustained crane pose.

When I was thinking about writing this essay I had planned to write and say that my personal experiment was only discovering how asanas can be a direct spiritual practice for me, but something occurred to me. By not being able to find the book I wanted (and so not have the experience I was sure I was going to have) I feel like Shiva stepped into the mix and destroyed my preconditioned sense of ego.  Inadvertently I had a Shiva experience without meaning to.