I just came back from week of teaching and studying with one of my beloved teachers and I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to study with those who have become masters in their chosen path. More than what they say, I find that when I am with spiritual teachers, whether it be yoga or other paths, what I am most inspired by and what I learn the most from is simply watching them navigate the world. There is a level of attunement that I aspire to have, and from many conversations and interactions with my teachers, I know that this attunement comes from being open and receptive, backed up by years of dedicated study and practice, practice, practice.
Years ago I remember taking a class where the teacher compared yoga practice to television. Remember those “bunny ear” antennae? Someone would have to stand up and adjust as the people watching directed them – you had to know just the right way to turn them, just the right amount of tin foil to put around the end to get the best reception. Sometimes you had to just stand and hold them in the right place to get any picture at all. I remember standing in my grandmother’s living room in Brooklyn arguing with my sisters about who would have to hold them so we could watch the Smurfs. My teacher pointed out that the broadcast didn’t start simply because we figured out how to position the antennae – the broadcast was out there all along, we just needed to figure out how to allow it to come through.
Yoga practice helps us tune our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual antennae so we are in the optimal place to receive the broadcast. This is why practicing with good alignment is key - when our bodies are aligned, the channels of receptivity and transmit become more open and the pathways clearer. Bhakti Sutra #53 says: “It reveals itself wherever there is an able vessel.” The “it” is love, knowledge, joy, truth – what is infinitely being sent out by the universe to us at all times. And when we attune all our awareness to this “broadcast”, we become the able vessel and we reveal it.
It is also important to align the inner, energetic body with the outer physical form. In our energetic body we have a main energy channel called the sushumna nadi that runs down the length of the torso, beginning at the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head, passing through all the chakras below it, and ending at muladhara or root chakra at the pelvic floor. During times when I feel really “tuned in”, I feel as if there is a direct and open channel between me and my source. It feels to me as if the sahasrara chakra is wide open and that knowledge, wisdom and love can just pour down into me. During times when I am not feeling as connected, one of my practices is to awaken this chakra through poses like sirsasana (headstand), and other poses, including restoratives, in which we rest the head on the floor or a block (like Prasarita Padottanasana). I think it’s interesting to note that babies are always innately in touch with the divine, having spent less time in apparent “separation” from their source as we adults have. On a spiritual level, this is why the fontanel at the crown of the head is open at birth and stays open for up to a year and a half afterwards. It is one of the reasons babies are so innately loving and trusting and wise.
On a physical level, when we align our spine we “attune” our whole body, as the spine is the seat of the nervous system. When we work in each pose to keep the natural curves of the spine the whole body moves towards a state of homeostasis. And when we practice poses where we cannot keep the curves (like deep forward or back bends), if we start those poses from the neutral position and work with lengthening before curving, we bring greater flexibility to the spine and the nervous system.
How can you better attune your antennae to pick up the cosmic broadcast? What thoughts or ideas need to be let go of to be a more open channel for divine grace to flow into? Through yoga or whatever other practices enable you to, shape yourself into the “able vessel”.
Off the Mat:
One of the easiest ways to keep the channel for grace open is to keep a sense of wonder about the world. As you go through your day, be aware of nature’s beauty, the kindness of people around you, guidance that comes in obvious and subtle ways.
On the Mat:
Practice poses that awaken the sahasrara or crown chakra. The image of the sahasrara chakra is a thousand-petaled lotus, and as you practice you might hold the vision of this energy center becoming more and more open as each petal unfolds itself, until at the end of practice when we lay down in savasana for deep relaxation we are able to surrender completely, to move out of the thinking, processing, doing mind, and become an open channel for grace to flow down into.