I was reminded of this today on hearing a good friend nailed her tic tac, it also made me think of another friend who recently dropped back and then came back up again for the first time, and of yet another friend who bound Marichiyasana D for the first time. All had been working on these for a considerable period, in some cases years.
On the Leon workshop last weekend, I was asked something along the lines of whether there was a posture I couldn't do, or was that in the interview? Either way, my answer was 'No, there wasn't a posture that I didn't think I could do'. That sounds a little arrogant right, but god when I started Ashtanga I though most postures would be beyond a man of my age and flexibility... but then I finally touched my toes and then managed to keep the backs of my knees on the floor in paschimottanasana and then bound in Ardhabaddha padmasana. I bound too in Marchiyasana D and then dropped back and came up again. I touched my toes in kapotasana and then my heels and even took my ankles.... and from the air. And on it went, each posture I thought I'd never do finally become doable, approachable, such that I began to believe that yes, perhaps anything could be achieved... with work, within the Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama Syllabuses anyway (although kandasana has been stubborn and I still haven't grabbed my heels in chakorasana).
What does this teach us.... how do we justify this work we put into our asana practice....
Perseverance? Self belief? Patience?
"And the wise seeker knows: the fruit of my endeavours will be commensurate with the intensity of my self-effort, and neither fate nor a god can ordain it otherwise".
What else IS possible?
Is loving kindness possible? If I can love you, stranger, as much as my beloved. If I can love you, enemy, as much as my revered teacher......
Is knowing the self possible, transcending the self approachable? Can I see, know, that I am not this or that or that, nor that, nor that, nor that,....24 tatva times not that....
Oscar and I talked about yoga and health and how that aspect of yoga did not concern me as much as perhaps it should (although I appreciate good health and fitness as a byproduct). I mentioned that Krishnamacharya had listed, as a benefit of a posture (I forget which), that it was good for overcoming leprosy........
An asana that can overcome leprosy?
Do we believe that?
Is that possible?
And yet there is leprosy of the body and leprosy of the mind, of the body it's merely another disease, 'Hansen's disease' is another name for it and it's caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. But of the mind.... if I have Hansen's disease and look at you and see reflected in your face, fear, disgust, if I see leprosy there then that perhaps is what I have and that is who I am, who I see in the morning in the window pane.
But if through my practice, my asana practice, my pranayama practice, my pratyahara practice, my meditation practices and yamas/niyamas..... if through my practice I can employ the body to overcome the body, disassociate myself from my body, from the experiences of the senses, the perception of self..... not that, not that, 24 times not that, then perhaps I do overcome leporosy, and all that is left is a body, with the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis, with which I am familiar.
Perhaps this asana, if I stay long enough, if the integrity of my breath maintained, my kumbhaka, then perhaps it can can overcome leprosy, perhaps that is possible.
Perhaps it is possible to know god or the absence of god..... one asana at a time.
Yoga Vasistha section VI.1chapter25