Before she came, she'd left instruction to chose a fairy tale. God, I thought. Do I really want to do this? But I had committed. Besides, my friend Jenny had loved it. So, reluctantly I sought out a story to bring. No princesses as beautiful of the moon (so patriarchal!), no talking animals (so juvenile!), no wicked witches (again with the patriarchy...). I chose the Emperor's New Clothes. Beginning. Middle. End.
The thing was, as we worked on the stories, as we unearthed their essences, I found myself longing for the very witches I'd cast away. I wanted a wise woman. A princess. And some strange magic to occur.
But I stuck with my Emperor, his vanity embarrassed me though I could imagine him salivating over the promise of the most exquisite woven cloth. I entered the landscape of the story, touched it with reluctant fingers and found in its centre avarice and pride, shame and naked truth. The very traits that exist in all of us.
The Emperor did rattle me. He brought me to the trading centre of a coastal city and made me feel the absolute vulnerability of a man exposed – naked no less -- to an entire audience of people. My heart ached for him as I left him to walk his long walk back up to the castle.
At the end of the weekend, I was left feeling like I was part of a narrative current. That these ancient wise stories had a way of reaching into us, teaching us if we were only willing to listen.
And so it is with yoga. The tradition of yoga is ancient, its spiritual aims high. (Enlightenment, no less!). Like the stories, yoga asanas are small portals into the human narrative arc. We can observe how we are greedy like the Emperor, perhaps not for cloth, but for a "better" pose. Or, we may go into the pose expecting it to be familiar, only to discover a plot twist that brings us to a new awareness about our bodies or our minds.
As you enter a pose, think of a narrative arc. Beginning. Middle. End. The beginning offers the foundation, the premise for the pose. The middle, remember, is where the plot thickens. How is your body feeling today? The big toe mound is hard to ground. The left side is tighter than the right. The shoulder blades feel free today -- like wings.
Then, you return home. The end of the pose. After the journey. Somehow, at that moment you are changed. If only slightly. Different from when you started.