Yoga & Spiritual

Stagnation, Imagination and the Inner Puppy

This installment of epiphanous ramblings is brought to you by a morning Mysore that started out in a semi-hopeless state.

I was sick this weekend with this kind of virus-express thing that’s going around whereby you get this headache at 8 a.m., a sore throat at 10 a.m., a lot of lethargy at all stages, another headache by noon, a swollen throat after a nap, a seeming moment of wellness, another headache, a sweaty night’s sleep, a wake up to an almost closed throat and a repetition with a little less intensity before the thing seems to start to disappear at the end of day two. Mysterious and a bit confounding–I mean, if you exercise, work or have a life, the virus isn’t really telling you whether to call your routine off or ignore the symptoms and fake it till you make it … or what?

Anyway, I avoided strenuous activity yesterday until last night found me really pent up and lethargic. So I put on my vibram five toes and took a swift jog around the villa only to find the virus totally back off and seem to surrender. Woke up again this morning feeling bleck but decided to kick out a practice.

I wasn’t sure. I felt tired, a bit heavy, soggy if you will, in spirit.  Yet the moment I did a dive into the first uttanasana, I was able to see my body come  alive like  a puppy that wanted to go out for so long that it got frustrated and was just sitting still, zoning out, pouting. The chance to go woke my body up and over the course of a few salutations I felt surges of energy I hadn’t felt in weeks. Of course I was excited and rode them all the way through the end of a solid practice. Dripping wet, I sat in lotus, said my intentions for the day and went off to get some stuff done around the house.

I’m writing this mainly as an example that a lot of what we think in terms of how tired we are, how much energy we have, is limiting. The mind is so black and white about the body’s storage of energy–you are either tired or not, exhausted or not. But the more I practice Yoga, the more my body–as if it were a puppy, whining–gets in on the conversation and says “you know what? I’m actually NOT tired, okay? I’m feeling like crap because nobody took me for a jog today and it’s depressing!’

Sure, there are times when you are downright exhausted. Take a small jog or start a practice and after ten minutes you will know definitively what is going on.  My point is to avoid ruling yourself tired or sick if the symptoms represent stagnation more than anything else.

Stagnation, what a hugely powerful concept! And a completely practical one for someone cultivating a Yoga practice, a running routine around a long race, or even a regular workout routine. In fact, knowing about this concept is the difference between succeeding and achieving goals and considering one’s self unable to do them at all.

I learned about stagnation first at my acupuncturist in Wisconsin. One time, after many sessions with him, I had an appointment over an exam day. That day, I hadn’t slept the night before, I hadn’t eaten much and the majority of the day was spent either sitting and crunching for the exam or taking it. I showed up at my Dr’s. office. He checked my tongue and put me on the table and started putting the needles in per usual. It was a totally different experience than what I was used to–I mean, oh did it hurt–so bad! The needles were not the cause, though. They were hair thin, and I knew it wasn’t poked nerves that I was feeling, it was the area around the needle and the energy that was lacking there or stagnant there, being forced to move–the pain was dull yet strong on many points. He put on the relaxing traditional Chinese music, turned on the heater and left.

I laid still on that exam table for 40 minutes, looking at images of flowers and butterflies on the ceiling, and sometimes the insides of my eyelids, as the needles redirected energy out of my belly to my limbs. By the end of the time as he removed the needles, I felt no pain and was totally energized and clear headed.

I realized right then that energy can find itself trapped in the body so deeply that it can fool a person, often, into thinking they are tired or even sick–such was the transformation in my energetic state after that session.

Try this: next time you feel tired at the office, stand up. Put your hands over your head, exhale as you swing your torso and outstretched arms down toward the floor, bending the knees slightly. Inhale as you role back up and straighten the legs and swing the torso and arms up–repeat this a dozen times … on the exhale, even sigh audibly if you are alone or comfortable.

This or a brisk walk will show you the magic of the concept of stagnation. Many more times than not, you’ve got a lot of gusto just waiting to be used.

Next time you’re not sure if that workout is in order, if you are up for it, just try, just put yourself there and feel that feeling of how you get after you are done, before you even start. Go for it and you might just be shocked that there was a puppy’s worth of energy stored up, just waiting for you to open the front door.

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