Saturday, April 11, 2009

21st century meets ancient yoga philosophy

it's "21st century meets ancient yoga philosophy" with birjoo mehta. according to the trusty interweb, "Sri Birjoo Mehta is a long-standing disciple of Sri B.K.S. Iyengar as well as the managing trustee of the Light on Yoga Research Trust. He has been a student of Iyengar since 1975 and since 1984 has accompanied him on many tours in India and abroad. Birjoo had been teaching Iyengar Yoga in Mumbai (Bombay) for 18 years." Apparently he is also trained and works as an engineer.

i've never had the concept of consciousness, the distinction between mind, intelligence, and ego explained using analogies drawn from the worlds of computer technology and business, but it makes perfect sense. i think i'm actually beginning to understand the sutras that refer to the 'seer' and the 'seeing.'

if i'm remembering correctly, here's how birjoo explained it: the body is like the hardware of a computer, the actual physical metal and glass and silicon and wire components. the intelligence is like the software - the word processor, the spreadsheet, the email program, the publish
ing applications you use to create whatever work you're doing. the mind is like the operating system, the interpretor that goes back and forth between the software and the hardware so that the software's instructions are actually understood by the machine. all these three components are complete on their own, but none of them can really accomplish anything without the other two.

in india businesses employ "runners" (i can't remember the specific term birjoo used, but he did refer to them as male) who greet visitors to a company. visitors give the 'runner' a busi
ness card and ask to see the boss. the runner takes the business card to the boss and then return to the visitor with whatever message. if there's a person the boss really doesn't want to see, it doesn't take the runner long to figure out that it's not necessary to go to the boss with that person's business card, he can just say the boss isn't in. this is how the mind works. when something's new, some new emotion or sensation or encounter, the mind registers it and then goes to the intelligence to determine how to proceed. with children everything's new, there is no database of information to draw upon so they're constantly consulting the intelligence. they're very conscious and aware of everything. as we evolve and grow, our ego fills up like the database, full of memories and their associated prejudices. so after a while, after the database starts to compile data, the mind doesn't need to go to the intelligence every time it encounters something - some person or sensation. the mind can say "i recognize this, i know how to handle this" and sends its instructions to the body to speak or move or whatever.

so it is with yoga. when we perform an asana repetitively, in the same way over and over day after day, without introducing anything new, our mind says "i recognize this, i know how to do this" and sends instructions (which may not necessarily be correct) to the body. this is wh
y it's so easy to get into bad habits with asanas. we're so focussed on completing the asana that we don't consciously think about every little movement that gets us to that completion.

so birjoo taught us how to look differently, in a very new way (for many if not all of us) at our asanas. he actually brought to life mr. iyengar's teachings which, for me who hasn't had the experience of being in his presence, have always been in written form and therefore somewhat inaccessible to my full understanding. birjoo is showing us how to awaken the consciousness, how to observe the mind and see what messages it takes, and what messages it brings, so we can reintroduce intelligence into the asanas. the intelligence is in our bodies and we know when we've found it because our minds quieten. for example, in tadasana (mountain pose), if you focus on expanding your foot from the metatarsal forward and back, the breathing actually slows and deepens, and the mind quietens. it's quite remarkable in its simplicity. rather than letting the mind just tell the body how to do these simple poses, birjoo is encouraging us to first observe our mind as we do each pose, then look very carefully at the foundation of the poses, to awaken our consciousness and bring intelligence and find that quiet. inside each cell, he says, there's an on and off switch (again, like the ones and zeros of the computer) and when we engage with yoga in this way we're activating those cells and that is how we not only avoid injury, but heal ourselves.

maybe we can even find eternal life! look at mr. iyengar, at 90 years old .... he's certainly inspiring!

i suppose it's not surprising that the human being functions like a computer ..... i mean, that the computer functions like a being. everything in creation, as i was reminded last weekend, is constructed from the same materials that were present at the 'beginning' of our universe 13.6 billion years ago (though i still wonder when scientists will discover whatever existed before that particular sperm/egg like collision). and it's the same 13.6 billion year old minds doing the creation. while some beings reflect their inner selves through military equipment and now robotic drones, that kill and murder and destroy, many others prefer to honour the ancient processes that re-awaken intelligence, to marvel at the complexity of life, to do the work of healing and sustaining life.