We think of ourselves as solid. We experience this life as a solid physical being. Well, what else could we be? We certainly feel this solidity when we move. When we stretch our hamstrings, we have no doubt in our minds that the sensation is very real and the hamstrings very solid. And so, it is very interesting to contrast that perception with the reality of us being mostly empty space! What am I talking about? The atoms that comprise all the molecules that form our body are 99.99999999999% empty! To help us visualize this, imagine that an atom is the size of a large football stadium. The solid part of the atom or the nucleus is only as big as an orange. The rest is merely empty space. I think it is in some ways a beautiful metaphorical advice for living this life: to remember that very little is necessary, and to find lightness in that space.
When we practice asana, we are allowing our bodies to find space to live in this world with more ease. We find space in between the toes. We find space between the ears and the shoulders. We find space between each vertebrae of the spine. We even find space in between the eyebrows. And it is the creation of the space that makes us realize how much of our tension is due to compression. We tend to tighten not only our physical body, but crowd our mental space with worries, fears, resentments and other negativities too. We are weighed down by our self-imposed heaviness when we are in fact made mostly of space and of lightness.
As part of our practice, we can examine the ways in which the lack of space creates tension in our lives. Do we have a recurring physical condition that is a result of our lifestyle choices? Say, for example, lower back pain caused by sitting on a desk because we choose to work long hours? Or are we attached to owning so many material things, so much so that much of our time and energy are spent on just making money and spending that money? Or perhaps we are very restless, uncomfortable with silence or space, that we tend to create our own dramas because we are unconsciously avoiding that quiet solitude? How much space-- and ease-- do we have in our lives?
We are made of flesh, blood, bones, and mostly empty space. But we are not made of anger or jealousy or fear or resentment or bitterness, so let them go. Release them. Empty them out. Create space so that only what is essential stays.