by Holly Walck, devoted Iyengar yoga student and teacher
When I was asked to write on this topic, the first thought I had was, “How can I write a blog about bad days when I don’t have them anymore?” It had been so long since I was unable to be seated in gratitude (which leads to contentment) that I wasn’t sure that I would have anything to share when—aha!—I remembered the moment that I realized that the practice of yoga had actually transformed my life.
Several years ago, and deep into a dedicated yoga practice, I experienced heartbreak for the first time in my adult life. The person I loved ended our relationship and had likely betrayed our commitment to one another. While in the depths of my despair, I remember standing on my mat in Legs Spread Wide Apart Forward Bend Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana) with tears streaming down my face. At that moment, a warm spring breeze blew through the windows, filling my nose with the sweet smell of fresh leaves, and I exclaimed out loud, “Oh, how wonderful! Spring has returned in all its glory!”
Here I was, trying to be absolutely immersed in the darkness of my current situation, when the new paths yoga had forged in my brain continued to pull me towards the light. A few weeks later, after describing this progress to one of my spiritual teachers, Dr. Edwin Bryant, he said, “Holly, you are so fortunate that you have this paradigm from which to view the landscape of your life.”
Yoga philosophy teaches that the transient nature of the world is the source of all our desires and dissatisfactions. These likes and dislikes shape the decisions we make and the actions we take. The vicissitudes of life are guaranteed and, while it is of primary importance to acknowledge our feelings about what is happening for us (not to us) in the moment, the teachings at their heart comfortingly reassure us that the core of our being is never-endingly joyful.
Once I began to experience this truth, I was not pulled as far off my center by what Kobayashi Issa calls “the world of dew” in the following haiku:
The world of dew
Is a world of dew.
And yet, and yet…
Issa, a poet and Buddhist priest who experienced much suffering from very early on in his life, acknowledges in this poem that the world “of dew” is impermanent, and therefore a source of pain, yet it still has profoundly precious moments to offer us.
May the following sequence bring you closer to the truth, peace, and joy that lie within you.
5 (+1) Poses Guaranteed to Turn That Frown Upside Down!
- Intense Stretch of the Sides Pose (Parsvottanasana) with arms making a Cow Face (Gomukhasana)
- Warrior Pose III (Virabhadrasana III), variation with arms in Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Revolved Abdomen Pose (Jathara Parivartanasana), with support
- Corpse Pose (Savasana), with “echo exhalations,” in which you exhale slowly and fully, pause, then exhale again.
Holly Walck is a devoted student and teacher of Iyengar Yoga. She teaches public classes at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. Read more about Holly at www.iyengaryogamalibu.com.
I don’t do Yoga, but I agree completely that gratitude leads to contentment. Years ago I came to the belief that the only prayers worth saying are Thank You, and I love you. Happiness comes and goes, but contentment comes and stays. I am so grateful for the contentment in my life that stays and makes me even more thankful!