As I set out for a long walk at the Blue Hills Reservation, the invigorating smell of green was everywhere. I hear birds singing in union as if to welcome me into their yard. Trees surround me along the path, aged but wise like an old man. After an intense class of Ashtanga yoga, I like to get some fresh air so here I am; reposing or should I say reflecting on my practice. When I practice my postures on my well used blue jade yoga mat, I feel it's just me and yoga - Yoga makes me feel like I am 'one'. The practice of asana helps me bring my mind and body into alignment with the light of my soul. I know that sounds silly but like the trees around me here, they too stand as 'one'. Each tree is unique and different in every possible way sort of like a human finger print is never the same as another. The trees represent yoga to me. As BKS Iyengar said "Yoga means union of the individual soul with the universal spirit". Ninety percent of people are suffering in some way, physically, mentally or spiritually. The science of yoga helps us to keep the body as a temple so that it becomes as clean as the soul.
My senses open up to the natural elements around me, always positive energy here. As my mind quiets down, the silence of this magical place sooths me. You can actually hear a pin drop. I am surrounded by nature's art. After walking a bit, I sit down on the edge of a well aged fallen tree stump. This morning before me a brilliant red-orange sun on the horizon rising, it immediately evoked me to write how trees are a good example of yoga. I get a pen and journal out of my backpack; and start to observe and write.
The tree of the self needs to be taken care of, you plant a seed and if you have the right elements: earth, sun, water and the gardeners loving hand. A tree starts to grow, to become 'one'. To me yoga is like a tree. The root of the tree is like 'yama' which consists of five principles: 'ahimsa' (non violence), 'satya' (truthfulness), 'asteya' (freedom), 'brahmacharya' (control of sensual pleasure) and 'aparigraha' (freedom from ones need). Basically the root is like arms, legs, mouth, organs of generation and organs of exception. The trunk of a tree compares to the five principles of 'niyama'. They are 'saucha' (cleanliness), 'santosa' (contentment), 'tapas' (adour), 'svadhyaya' (self study) and 'isvara-pranidhana' (self surrender). The human body organs would be eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. From the trunk of the tree several branches emerge: one grows long, sideways, zigzag and straight. These are the 'asana' the various postures which bring the physical and the physiological functions of the body to harmony with the psychological pattern of yogic discipline. These branches grow leaves whose interaction with air supplies energy to the whole tree. The leaves draw in external air and connect it to inner parts of the tree which can be compared to 'pranayama'. The respitoary and circulatory systems are brought into harmonious state. 'Asana' (posture and movement of the body) and 'pranyama' (breath) help the yogi to detach the mind from the contact of the body, and this leads automatically towards concentration and meditation. These branches are covered with bark. The tree would be eaten away by worms if it were not for the bark. Today I look at the old trees around me and wow how thick and so detailed; you can actually feel the texture of the strong bark without even touching it. But I get the urge to touch it, I get up and give the tree a hug, I cannot even get my arms around it because it's so big and much older than me, and I respect that tree. That moment I gave it love and light. The bark covering protects the energy flowing inside the tree between the leaves and root. The bark is compared to 'pratyhara' which is the inward journey of the senses from skin toward the core of being. The trees fluid or sap links the very tip of the leaf to the tip of the root. This unity is the core where the observer and observed are one is attained in meditation. When the tree is healthy the flower or fruit blooms. The flower or fruit is transformed into 'Samadhi'. As the essence of the tree is in the fruit or flower, so the essence of the practice of yoga is the freedom, poise and peace of 'samadhi' - where the body, the mind and the soul are united and merge with the universal spirit.
The tree of yoga. The tree of life. By doing yoga asana and pranyana I am working my way toward self realization and that does not happen overnight. In order to bloom into a healthy tree, you must cultivate a certain discipline. I practice yoga every single day, and the postures do not come easy. It takes time and patience to reach 'samadhi'. Parts of yoga is respect to the postures and not push it, because there are consequences to pushing yourself too far and then it results in injury and sets you back from reaching the goal. For example, if you put a seed in the ground today and say "In 10 days I want fruit", does it come? The fruit comes naturally, does it not? When the tree is ready to bear fruit, it comes. Even if you say, "I want it, I want it now" it does not come any sooner. But when you think that the tree is not going to give you fruit at all, all of a sudden you see the fruit grow. It has to come naturally, not artificially so work, and let it come or let it not come, but continue your practice every day. You will become the tree of yoga. So the lesson here is yoga teaches you to know your limitations, then to build from them. We can compare yoga to a tree but both the yoga and tree is like life. The lessons I learn here today and on the mat continue to the outside world, my everyday life. How to live successfully in the real world.
In conclusion asana practice is a way of life for me; it will be a lifelong process, as long as I have my yogic vitamins of faith, memory, courage, absorption, and uninterrupted awareness of attention, then I am working my way toward my inner light. With these vitamins you can become 'one' with the universal self. I stop and look up and way above me in the dark blue sky I see a pair of red tail hawks, flying in a circular pattern. Which then brings me to think like the birds in motion; similar to the effects of asana is to keep the skin, cells, nerves, arteries and veins flowing. When I breathe in this crisp air and my body is moving the blood through me to keep me alive. Since yoga means integration, bringing together - so body and mind come together, bringing nature and the seer together. I start to walk out into the real world, leaving the woods, after deep thought and meditative writing - I realize yoga is 'me'. I then said out loud, anouncing it to the world "I am 'one' with yoga".