Surya Namaskar, sun salutation, is the foundation of many yogic practices, and has certain, formulaic steps, though different schools of yoga improvise on this classic sequence. I'm used to a vigorous, hop-filled variation popular with vinyasa styles of yoga. My teacher at the local gym prefers a less "bouncy" style, including simple steps back rather than hops.
Today she planned a 90 minute class in celebration of her 50th birthday, and, unbeknownst to me (but not others in the class), the class would include five sets of ten sun salutations, a kind of steadying and purifying ritual.
I closed my eyes as we entered the first round of sun salutations and tried to focus on my breathing: slow, steady, and so unlike how it is most of the time. I trusted my body, my muscle memory, to find the right spot for my feet, to not overstep, to not fall. With my eyes closed, I was tunneling inward, trying to find that still, quiet place inside. It worked throughout most of the sequences, but as I started to tire, my arms shaking as I pushed into chaturanga, my mind was back to flitting all about. By the time we reached savasana, the most relaxing pose of all, my concentration was lost. I could feel the floor vibrating from the air conditioning, and hear the people next to me breathing. I was thinking, thinking, thinking a constant stream of thoughts: spiraling, looping, fleeting, persisting.
I'm all about living the contemplative life, and have waxed poetic about my "free" summers, with long expanses of time to read, write, think, create, etc. And I'm not really complaining. The only problem is that when *all* activities have this overarching interiority, it's easy to be stuck inside my own head, and that's not always a great place to be stuck, you know?
My daily yoga and walks, on the other hand, could force me to focus a little bit more on the physical world around me, and to move outside of myself. Granted, doing sun salutations with eyes closed, and walks with my iPod on also tend to turn the gaze more inward.
Somehow, I need to a) come to terms with the internal landscape and b) find better ways of bridging interiority and exteriority. I'm realizing just how difficult it is to be in any given moment without judgment or anxiety, and I'm realizing just how disconnected I am from my inner world during the school year, all wrapped up in external concerns and projecting a certain air of mastery or confidence. What happens when the daily concerns include language lessons, writing, reading, cooking, exercising? Each of these activities is an exercise in spiritual discipline--not a transcendence of the inner world, but rather an acceptance of each moment as it unfolds.