This morning at promptly 7am I taught my first Jivamukti Beginner Vinyasa class. This was outside of my comfort zone since the class followed a specific and structured curriculum, very different from the flexibility and creativity that a Jivamukti Open class provides. I was worried I would forget the sequence. I even (partly) lost sleep over it. For the first time in my yoga teaching life, I had a hand-written cheat sheet. Just in case.
During the class, I explained- as it was prescribed in the curriculum- the meaning of vinyasa. Vi means sequence and nyasa means conscious placement. The practice of vinyasa yoga links movement and breath to intention.
The depth of the Sanskrit language fascinates me. Our understanding of a concept expands as we ourselves become more open. The common understanding of vinyasa as flow-based movements is only a surface layer of what it truly is. The more comprehensive meaning of vinyasa suggests an awakening of consciousness. To practice vinyasa is to become so consistent in our awareness that we do not miss out a single moment. To practice vinyasa is to be so proficient in our self-observation that all the actions we take are filled with intention.
I remember a yoga class I once attended that taught me about intention and consciousness. The lesson was not in the curriculum. It was in the real-life form of the person practicing beside me. I was lying in savasana waiting for class to begin, and I noticed that the student beside me was restless, fidgeting and even pacing back and forth within the small rectangle of his yoga mat. I sensed it was not going to be an easy class- for him or for me.
The teacher started to give verbal cues when the student beside me blurted out what at best was a thoughtless remark, and at worst was a derogatory and discriminating comment about the teacher. I was appalled. As I practiced, I could not help but think of the imaginary conversation I would have with this student. I thought to myself, I am going to talk to him after class and call him out on his inappropriate behavior. I will tell him it was rude and unnecessary. I was not focusing on my practice, I was focusing on how I was right and he was wrong.
A pivotal moment came when the student accidentally hit me in a pose. It became clear to me that his actions were taken not with bad intentions. His actions did not have any intention, that is all. This person was disconnected from his actions and was completely unaware of how he was hurting others. My perception changed. I realized I was too busy judging him, and I started to feel very emotional. I understood then that he had a lot of pain in his life, pain that he himself was not yet even aware of.
We fidget when we cannot stand ourselves. We pace back and forth when we are not happy with where we are. And the irony is that fidgeting and pacing are not effective for the simple fact that everywhere we go, there we are. We struggle with staying still when there is something we want to escape from.
The practice of vinyasa is a practice of becoming more attuned to how we move. It is a practice that brings our intentions as the forerunning catalyst of future actions. If, for example, we are unaware of whether our inhalations and exhalations are even when we do our asana, we will struggle because we would feel rushed in one pose and then we would have to hold our breath in another pose. This lack of consciousness drives yoga practitioners to injure themselves. Off the mat, it drives people to take selfish egoic actions. Discriminating against others whom we see as different comes from lack of consciousness. Eating and consuming animals and animal byproducts come from a lack of intention. We do not consciously and intentionally hurt others. We hurt others because we do not have consistent consciousness and focused intentions.
Going back to the restless student in this class, he was lacking consciousness and intention and ended up hurting the teacher leading the class and myself who was practicing beside him. As for me, I was lacking consciousness and intention. I was judgmental when I could have been compassionate.
When the class ended, I decided to speak to the teacher instead, and I told him how gracefully he handled the situation, which was to let the remark go unnoticed. I could not control my tears at this point, because I have somehow felt connected to the pain of the student, this pain so big that he did not know how to handle it, that he unconsciously and unintentionally buried it. I cannot explain how I knew but I am certain of the burden he was carrying. I have not seen him since but I wish him well.
So yes, even though the Jivamukti Beginner Vinyasa class was not my first choice of class to teach, I have a strong appreciation of it. It puts me in a situation where I can be in front of a group of people who are open enough to be conscious, courageous enough to set intentions, and adventurous enough to explore their previously veiled worlds.
Vinyasa means conscious placement of sequence. It means that the actions we take are actions taken with full awareness and with focused intentions. It is an uncovering, an unveiling, an unraveling of our true power and potential. When all of our actions are conscious, it becomes an impossibility to hurt another. This is the meaning of vinyasa.
*Note: Jivamukti Beginner Vinyasa classes are taught every other Friday 700am to 815am at Yoga+ Makati.