Near the end of each yoga class I teach, whether to children or adults, we all bow to each other. I was taught that the bow has three parts, each of which aligns our hearts and minds with our bodies, and my favorite bow instruction is this:
“Sit Like a Mountain (sitting tall, seat planted, back straight, heart open, shoulders relaxed). Give Like a River (hinging forward from the hips, offering the chest and heart forward). Shine Like the Sun (rising up, radiate your heart, your goodness, outward 360 degrees).”
This is the essence of yoga, in a simple instruction. We learn how to inhabit our bodies, mindful of every detail, and we sit up tall because we feel our own strength and worthiness. Once we feel that, the next step is natural: we offer it to others. We understand it doesn’t belong to us, or to anyone, and that we are all connected. Finally, the circle comes back around and we find that by offering ourselves, we become more and more awake- more wise, more generous, more brilliant. And it keeps going.
But it’s not always easy to let ourselves be brilliant, to let ourselves shine, or to trust who we are in our hearts. We live in a society which places great emphasis on external measures of success. To be brilliant in the way society suggests is to have a certain type of job, a large amount of money, a very specific family structure, to look a certain way, etc. There is little room for internal reference points in these types of situations.
More and more, people are waking up to the reality that what’s within is the only path to genuineness, to sanity, to contentment, and also to helping others. Yoga helps us to find that light, that heart within ourselves, and to trust it.
We can come together with our families, our friends and especially our children with the intention of trusting our own shine more and more. Trusting each other’s genuine hearts.
One of the poses that most directly teaches this in yoga is Garudasana. The story of Garuda (part human, part bird- often called Eagle Pose, though he was no eagle) is that his mother Vinata birthed an egg, and when he hatched fully formed he was resplendent and powerful, shining with the light of a million suns. The gods were so intimidated by this brilliance and power that they immediately asked him to tone it down. He agreed, becoming smaller and less bright. Later on, he was tasked with stealing a cup of amrita from the gods in order to rescue his mother from a den of serpents. He had to pass through three deadly obstacles in order to retrieve the cup, and he did so with great ease, gaining the eye of Vishnu, and gaining immortality on the spot. He was able to return the amrita and free his mother, but before the serpents could drink from the cup, the gods took it back, leaving just a few drops on the ground. Licking up these drops is what gave the snakes a forked tongue.
What’s important to note is that Garuda’s brilliance and potency are what got him through the obstacles. Even though he had outwardly dimmed his shine, inwardly he was connected with his own light, power and strength.
Yoga teaches all of us to shine like the million suns we are, unapologetically, even if our light is not liked by others. True brilliance can be uncomfortable and even feel threatening when we ourselves aren’t in touch with our own shine. Seeing another shine can be too painful because it leads us to a place where we have to look at what we do not trust. But ultimately, the more we see the shine of others, the more we start to recognize our own shine too.
Whether you practice Garudasana, or any other pose that helps you feel strong, balanced and bright, remember that being you is the only way to be. And if you want to learn more about yoga, from poses to philosophy, take a look at From the Ground Up, a 30 day online course specifically designed for beginning yogis!
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