An Indian Yoga Teacher’s Letter to Her Greek Students

By Mallika Menon

Yoga speaks to me as I journey along its path. It is mysteriously elusive and yet directly revealing. Certainly, there is a unique message for each one of us if we are openly receptive to its many nuances. Having seriously done yoga for many years and dabbled in it erratically before that in my youth, there is an unceasing interest in its constant personal revelations.

Mallika Menon

There used to be an inclination to get caught up in the scientific accuracy of posture and breathing which left rigidity and stress in its wake. Something was missing, I knew. That’s when I started listening and located a distinct murmur in my mind. With that, a gentle quest began. Was it so important to attain utter perfection? What is this body, after all? I listened more intently and made the choice to go on, to see what happens as I stumbled along. Yoga was speaking to me more clearly now. ‘Keep up a gritty pursuit and work from within’, I heard. I sensed a hidden promise. I knew I will be rewarded. Why compare and compete? And why always grapple with faultlessness? There are no winners or losers and there are no imperfections. Somewhere along the passage, the frustration and severity ebbed. A whim became a pleasant and helpful addiction.

Earlier, too much effort was going into being correct. An encouraging tempo began within me, asking to let go, to surrender and to listen to the unfolding wisdom, while I did forward bends and twists and breathed in and out deeply. As I got ensconced in the process of stretching and arching, humility and pride surged through in unison. I found that I was bowing downwards in submission and rising upwards in gratification. I was reaching up to the sky, to the stars, to the sun and yet bending down and connecting to the earth. Now I am humble and proud at the same time. There is an intense need to be embedded in the ground, yet there is a need to fly. I want to be a strongly rooted tree and an impenetrable mountain. But I also want to be a bird and a floating cloud.

Undoubtedly, I can be all. The pouncing cat and the petrified cat, two positions done in direct succession of the other indicate that I am the hunter and the hunted. Here I am the predator and also the prey. As the motions take on their rhythm, back and forth, back and forth, the roles blur and merge and a sense of serenity prevails. While assuming the warrior position I am subjected to strong resistance. Arms are extended, aiming towards opposite directions. Feet are firm and digging down, head held high in dignity. There is a readiness to surge forward, yet there is no willingness unless combat is imperative. I am constantly pushing down and stretching towards friend and foe alike, on confronting sides, but I stand my ground. A sense of inner strength prevails.

In prayer position I surrender myself completely and give in with great humility to the power of nature, letting the earth cradle me. In child’s pose, I allow myself to go to the inner child which exists in all of us. The inner child is pure and innocent and also blissful. This is our true self. As I get absorbed in the fluid movements of the salutation to the sun, body lengthens and throbs with sheer energy, the sun being the centre of the universe. There is awareness of an ongoing theme of strength, devotion, love and perseverance. By now a sense of worth has prevailed. I change from turtle to frog, from frog to camel. Peacock gives way to eagle and all this time, I am learning about endurance, wisdom, pride and persistence. A slithering cobra rears its head up to be interrupted by the dog and there is instant alertness.

Meanwhile, self is endlessly merging with nature. The breath is like the swish of the waves. I am tuned into the gurgling water of the river which is miles away but it is also near. So near. I cannot distinguish between the hum of the bees and my own chants. The air lifts me up to seat me on top of the mountain. I am the mountain. As there is water without, there is water within. As there is air without, there is air within. As there is fire without, there is fire within. The earth beckons. I make contact as I lay myself down. Breathing slows down. I am aware, yet distant. I am heavy, yet light. I am relaxed, yet energized. I am complete, yet incomplete. I smile and peace prevails. The promise is kept. I am rewarded. And the journey of yoga continues unravelling its profound insights leaving contentment and appreciation in its trail.

(Mallika Menon is a writer and Yoga teacher in Greece)