I compiled this Yoga for Complete Beginners series after having been taught the Basics by my Guru in Jaipur, India. My Guru, Arvind, was in fact an AirBnB host. Little did I know when I booked this accommodation that I would find a friend who would pass so much wisdom on to me. After practising Yoga with Arvind, this sacred practise received a whole different meaning.
A Connection with the Universe
On this misty winter morning we continued our Yoga for beginners routine on Arvind’s rooftop. Ben, still not feeling overly well, was at first reluctant to join but he eventually did. He likes Arvind and I think he likes the fact that an elder gentleman performs these weird looking poses in order to keep healthy and to find happiness.
I guess he must think ‘If Arvind does it, there must be something to it…’. This morning Ben is doing incredibly well and seems to get into it really easily. Whereas I struggle to do the simplest of poses. Even something as simple as twisting my hands outwards towards the end of the mat, to lean on my arms, is painful and I can’t do it for long; i’m turning my hands inwards, my fingers pointing towards my bum, and I feel much more comfortable.
How did I let it get that far?
Last year when I travelled to Bali and did my yoga retreat, I came back being able to do intermediate yoga poses. Now, it feels, I’m back to square one. Nevermind. At least, I’m back in the flow of doing Yoga every day!
We start with some warm-up exercises and Arvind kicks off his practise with the Palmtree pose. He adds a few new poses which we haven’t done yesterday, but mainly keeps to the same routine of the day before.
In between poses, we sit on our feet and he gives us a lesson about life, happiness and what an old guru taught him in the mountains.
The third stage of Yoga
“Like all of us – at some point in our lives – I sought to understand “Who am I? Why am I here?’, so I went to ask a guru – sometimes gurus don’t speak for many years – like a famous guru in India who lives up in the woods, who has not spoken for 20 years! He just sits there and meditates. Which takes me to the third stage of Yoga – apart from connecting the body and the mind on the first level – and to join mind and the soul on a secondary level –
we also aim to achieve a connection with the universe – that is, have our soul connect to the universe and everything around us – because we are all one with what is around!” he says, looking at us, nodding, his eyes always smiling. I can feel he is very proud of his knowledge.
“Only a few people have achieved this in life. Buddha, Jesus – for instance” we nod as we understand what he means. “So, I went to seek a guru – and he hasn’t talked to me for three days – and I kept going back to him and sit near him. Then on the fourth day, he spoke and asked me what he can do for me. I asked ‘Who am I?”.
The guru responds by telling a story: ‘Imagine you are a drop. If you fall into the ocean you become part of the ocean. Then one day water rises from the ocean and you are catapulted into the air. Then you become part of a cloud – you are proud of your achievements, of being right up there. Then one day you evaporate and fall down as the form of rain.
Maybe you are lucky and you fall into a nice fresh pond or a river. Perhaps you are unlucky and you fall into a dirty puddle – or even flush into sewage. Or you are being filtered and drunk by someone and come out in the form of piss. Whatever it is – you are on a journey. You have a purpose. And one day you will flow back into the river. To where you were before. See, whatever you are, does not matter. What matters is your soul – the outer circumstances are not important!”
I sit there confused not knowing 100% whether the guru really answered his question. I suppose what message he wanted to convey was to not worry so much about what’s going on around us and not seek our purpose in the outer world, but rather inside of us.
Like the old adage: Seek within, not without!
“There are 7 Chakras, also called energy points in our body. All of them need to be in balance. For instance, if the throat Chakra is underdeveloped then a person might be shy, if it is overdeveloped a person might be talking too much”.
I feel a flush of warmth on my cheeks when he says that, as I have always been a shy person and it had bothered me for a long time. And yet, I got to accept the fact that I’m a shy introvert and that I was ok the way I was. But what he says makes me curious and I decide to read up on it after our session to find out how to balance my throat chakra and whether practising certain asanas to activate this chakra would indeed have an effect or not.
“The first chakra is just below your tailbone – the Muladhara. This is also where Kundalini resides in most people. Kundalini is like a snake who, when one learns to elevate one’s energy, wanders up from chakra to chakra in a circular motion until it reaches its desired chakra- the crown chakra, also called Sahasrara – right on top of your head. This is the most holy chakra and we try to open it through meditation.
This is when we would attain pure consciousness.
If you think about it: a baby’s head when it is born, is not completely closed – it closes as his first days go by – and we now aim to open this channel again to establish a connection with the universe.”
He continues by pointing to each individual chakra. The next one is located below the navel, the Svadhisthana. It would be located where my ovaries are. The third chakra, Manipura, is near the solar plexus. Ah yes, this is the one I need to activate as the moment it is weak, fear and anxiety, amongst other things, arise – and I’ve always been quite an anxious person.
I manage to worry about even the littlest of things – I have been better the last few years, but my early twenties were just a series of very anxious years. Anahata, the Heart chakra, when weak is responsible for diseases and can be affected by stress – it is also where compassion lies and unconditional love.
I remember when I did a Tantra introductory course on Bali, that if this chakra is very pronounced in some people, then they would naturally prefer rather romanticised love sessions with a lot of gentle touching. Whereas, people whose second chakra – the red chakra also responsible for sexuality – is heavily pronounced prefer scratching, biting and rough long lasting sessions in bed.
Arvind points to his throat: “Vishuddha, as explained earlier, is the throat chakra. Then follows Ajna, the third-eye chakra – as you may know Shiva has a third eye – we all have it but with her it is more visible. And finally, we come to Sahasrara the crown chakra.”
I feel extremely uncomfortable doing the Lion Pose which is aimed at the Throat Chakra – we position ourselves on all our fours with the hands inwards (forget it – cannot do it), open our mouths, stick the tongue out, open our eyes wide as if in comical shock and say ‘HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA’. The first time he does it, both Ben and I start giggling and feel slightly embarrassed.
Arvind now talks about the ‘mudras’ (that is the way we position our fingers). For instance touching index finger and thumb or any other possible combination, can have different effects on ourselves during meditation. For now, the classical meditation pose will do, he says.
We close our eyes and I manage to just focus on the sounds around me for a good while which is wonderful as my mind is still. And then all of a sudden BOOM and one thought after another comes rushing in.
‘I wonder how that Lassi from the famous Lassiwalla tastes like. It’s surprisingly cold this morning. I wonder where to spend New Year’s’…”focus on your breathing and let your thoughts pass, don’t dwell on them”…’Ok ok…I try….hooting horn. Bird. Cow?! In the middle of the city. It’s so funny how they allow their cows roam free…focus…focus…..no….thoughts….ommmmmm….birds….horns……that’s better….keep going’.
After 20 minutes we place our hands in prayer-like fashion in front of our heart rubbing them together really quickly before touching our bodies to transmit the positive energy we have just built up into ourselves. I touch my Throat Chakra and hope that tomorrow the Lion Pose will feel less awkward to do.
What do you think of Arvind’s explanation on Chakras & the Kundalini? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!