If you are human, you are very good at putting layers between you and your Truth.
An untamed mind runs rampant with illusions that include words like, “never,” “can’t” “won’t happen.” Like an incessant rainstorm, the ground beneath us grows soggy and unsteady and we’re swept away with the current.
Whatever we believe isn’t possible for ourselves — doing what we love to make a living; being deeply understood; finding true partnership with another person — isn’t possible because of us.
In Sanskrit, maya means “illusion” or more accurately “delusion” — the idea that we ostensibly appear one way, when an entirely different reality lies within and out of sight.
- The time you gave up hope.
- The time you felt like you had no choice.
- The time you forgot who You are.
When the delusion wins, we stop making good choices. We fail to see hope for a life that’s peaceful and unharmed by the machinations of our mind. We become disconnected with the spark of our divinity.
When the delusion wins extremely, some people take their own lives.
For several unnervingly unhopeful moments in my life, I thought about being one of them. Perhaps you have, too.
The delusions you live with are sneaky. They parade easily in front of you, acting as if they’re the norm, remaining hidden in plain sight.
Often, they’re beliefs perpetuated by society — the idea that we would be better off if we all mimicked each others’ journeys to happiness, wealth and belonging.
The opposite is true for yoga asana. Mimicking another person’s body that is made differently than your own is a recipe for injury, and at the least a glut to your self-esteem. On the mat, you should not be encouraged to look like anyone else. You should be encouraged to take the principles of alignment and find them in your anatomy.
This is why my yoga asana does not look like yours and also why that’s okay.
Last week, I visited Vancouver for the first time. On a walk we found this mural — a Haida design depicting Raven, a powerful mythical creature. (The Haida are an indigenous people living in the Pacific Northwest in North America.)
In Haida mythology, Raven is believed to be a reflection of one’s own self. In stories, he has been depicted as a trickster, a transformer, a deviant — teaching “what not to do” to inform how one can lead a good life.
In many ways, Raven for the Haida is like the maya of yoga — the delusion or illusion that all is not as it seems.
Your true reflection
Without knowing this backstory about Raven, I decided to do Lord of the Dance Pose, Natarajasana, in front of the mural. It seemed like a creative way to add to the mural’s movement — plus, I was wearing my elephant print dress, which only looks like gold dots from afar.
Get ready for your mind to be blown.
Nataraja, from which the pose earns its name, is one form of the Hindu deity Shiva. In this depiction, Shiva is the “cosmic dancer” who dissolves the universe and creates it anew with his dance. Nataraja sculptures show Shiva balancing on one leg over a dwarf demon, representing triumph over the ignorance of illusion.
Why does this matter? Lord of the Dance pose embodies a willingness to give up the world views that no longer serve, understanding that you are divine and balanced at your core no matter what is created or destroyed around and within you.
The ability to see one’s true reflection (a gift from Raven), and to dance amid the struggle of becoming who you were meant to be, is an unexpected lesson to learn on vacation. The same vacation during which I learned that Robin Williams took his life.
Here’s the thing about trying to make sense of the world. You can choose to, or you can choose not to. Either way, you’ll be faced with a choice.
But it is the continual choice to see hope — to believe that all is not as it seems — that will make the difference when you feel as though you cannot carry on.
I hope — we are all hoping — that you choose hope.
Asana Practice: Lord of the Dance, Natarajasana
Now that you know the story behind this pose, it may change a few things for you. Namely, that it’s not just about nailing your balance. It’s about dancing in the balance of your own amazing creation.
- From Mountain Pose, Tadasana, bring hands to hips. Shift the weight into the right foot and bring the left foot up to the left buttock, grasping the inside of the foot with the left hand. Bring the knees to match, lift the right knee cap up and engage the right thigh back for a firm standing leg, shoulders remaining over hips.
- Raise your right arm up in front of you, perhaps forming a mudra with the thumb and first finger touching. Exhale and press your left foot into your left hand, lifting the left knee parallel to the ground and reaching through the left toes.
- Let the action of pressing into the left foot guide your upper body forward, keeping the collarbones wide and lengthening the low ribs away from the torso to elongate the spine. Breathe smoothly for six deep breaths, finding one point of focus in front of you for balance.
- Release the pose by coming back to center with the raised leg, then letting go of the foot. Shake out the ankles and legs before practicing the other side.