Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My passion is on the mat

image compliments of joythruyoga.com
(Ha!  I wish that's what my yoga space looked like.)

I've returned from yoga therapy session one at AVI!  Thirty four of us traveled to the mountain top to the Mount Madonna Center to find our new Sangha (community of practitioners).  We spent two weeks pulling ourselves apart and exploring the structure.  We also delved deeply into the therapist-client relationship and used each other as guinea pigs.  We were blessed to have Gary Kraftsow discuss yoga sutras that are especially relevant to yoga therapy and the client relationship.  The staff was knowledgeable (to say the least.)  The training was very well organized, and my fellow classmates brought a high level of professionalism and open curiosity.

My takeaways are so many.  I feel my head is actually larger for all the knowledge that was dumped in over eleven days working 6am - 9pm.  For me, the most fruitful part of my training was Gary's discussion of Sutra 1.17, about the different ways of knowing (or concentrating upon a subject, in this case, the client and his or her condition).

Here's SwamiJ's take on it - slightly different in language than Gary's, but it's good to have a reference!

1.17 The deep absorption of attention on an object is of four kinds, 1) gross (vitarka), 2) subtle (vichara), 3) bliss accompanied (ananda), and 4) with I-ness (asmita), and is called samprajnata samadhi.(vitarka vichara ananda asmita rupa anugamat samprajnatah)
  • vitarka = gross thought or reasoning
  • vichara = subtle thought 
  • ananda = bliss, ecstasy
  • asmita = I-ness, individuality
  • rupa = appearances, nature, form 
  • anugamat = accompanied by, associated with
  • samprajnatah = cognitive absorption, lower samadhi
Though there are many different levels of cognizing/understanding/merging with/knowing about the client and his or her condition, I will limit my discussion to the difference between vitarka and vichara.  Vitarka can be taken as "figuring it out" with the muscles of the mind (of course, this does not not literally mean muscles... I know that much from my anatomy study!)   When you put your mind to a problem and furrow your eyebrows to think your way to the answer, that's vitarka.  If you notice, when you go into your mind to turn the wheels, you actually step away from present awareness.

Vichara, on the other hand, is more like an intuitive connection with the object of focus... sort of like you go to it and into it by being present with it.  I think of it as a more "neck down" way of connecting that's best supported by coming into the central channel through breath and letting your awareness absorb what is around you.  (This is contrasted with vitarka, which seems to me to be a very "neck up" form of processing.)

I've been raised with a strong focus on intelligence and the power of the intellect as a tool to solve problems.  However, I am, at nature, a more intuitive person.  I feel, in many ways, that my head gets in the way of my heart.  My intellect is powerful, no doubt, but my heart is where the magic of this work will benefit others most highly.

The path to the fulfillment of my dharma 
travels directly through my heart.

It was amazing to work in triads, with fellow trainees, to learn the art of intake interviewing, developing session goals and prioritizing client issues, to assess through movement and stillness, to craft an intervention, and to help the client understand it.  Working in groups of three, we always had an impartial observer present, to give feedback and to notice the bigger picture.

It became clear to me, after taking my client through an absolutely adequate assessment session, THEN hearing Gary's thoughts on vitarka/vichara, that I was trying to vitarka my way through the assessment.  And I had a clear sense that that was not what Gary was doing in his case studies with students in our class - which were amazing to watch.  I was trying to "get it right" and "figure it out" without relying on and trusting in the Yoga Vidya, the living body of knowledge I have access to.  The teacher who taught the first teacher, and everyone in the lineage since then, is always at my back when I can calm and quiet myself enough to listen.



1 comment:

aimeeweinstein said...

For sure your heart is as strong and amazing as your intellect, Anna. Thank you for sharing your journey.