There is a story that when Gopal was an infant, his mother cradled him in her arms and he yawned. In the short moment that he had his mouth open, she saw the entire universe inside him.
Ahhh, the idea that the universe is inside us. Beautiful concept, isn't it? The words are like poetry. But what does it mean? Does it mean anything or are we just attached to empty words? The universe is inside you- does it mean we are limitless potential? We certainly are. We have infinite potential to be kind and empathetic and strong and courageous. Does it refer to the idea that is pragmatic and romantic at the same time that we have the same atomic makeup as stars? How is the universe inside us? Perhaps we can be inquisitive, ask questions as children would, to find answers in our yoga asana practice.
We often start the practice in tadasana or mountain pose. Asana means "to take the seat of". Why is it important to take on the form of a mountain, to be steady and strong and stable and secure of who we are? What about the mountain is like us and us like the mountain? We come into adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog a lot. Why are we copying what dogs do? When we feel the stretch of our spine, can we also start to stretch our minds and consider the idea that our universe and the universe of a dog and all dogs and all animals for that matter are not so different, that our nature is to be wildly connected to who we are, that our desire is to be free to express that? This misguided human-centric idea that humans are more intelligent than animals- how can it be true when animals are wired to be in the moment at all moments and we struggle so much to achieve that even in a short meditation practice? We also come into many versions of virabadrasana or warrior. Can we see that as warriors, the world that we think is outside us is not our enemy? Can we start to feel grounded on the reality that we are courageous warriors who can defeat our own egos, that our most potent weapons are love, kindness and compassion to all? The different asanas allow us to take on the seat of another for a few breaths, as though we incarnate from one form to another. We find some poses or incarnations hard, some easy. We experience a broad range of sensations and emotions and reactions. We explore the range of who we were and who we are and who we might be.
Yoga asana is very powerful because it connects us to the questions we ask in life. And these are the questions we used to ask as children.
A few lines from The Song of Childhood by Peter Handke:
When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?
My teacher Sharon Gannon says yogis are radical. We get to the root of the problem. And so when we have the seed of these questions, we seek with our minds, our sensations, our bodies. We are drawn to yoga asana precisely because we put our bodies in positions that allow the answers to come. We ask these questions because we seek, because we ask many variations of the question who am I, because we hope to be able to find that. When we feel this strong desire to get some answers, why not be inspired by the story of Gopal? He was a baby then. He did not have to do much. But when he opened his mouth, his mother saw the entire universe inside him. Why not see the power that the universe is inside you, that it is your birth right? Be love. Be light. Be compassion. Be peace. Be yoga.
The universe is inside you. Namaste.