by Andrea Fulkerson
As I sit at my desk thinking about yoga and all it has offered me, this question keeps coming into my mind, “haven’t I always been navigating some sort of change?” This thought was prompted by a virtual class coming up, and how in the last months I have gone from in-person learning to learning via the internet.
My journey with yoga started long ago with a near death car accident. An experience that knocked me out of myself and into the quest for Knowledge. One change to another: reading, studying, motherhood, yoga, university, and on it goes. As I think back with a smile, I realize that it was not that long ago that I was navigating the use of my first computer.
When I started on the Iyengar path, I didn’t know who I was, or how to “roll my upper arms back”, or “lift my kneecaps”. Over and over I heard “open your eyes” from my teacher trainer. The metaphor is uncanny. My physical body and mind were in a state of duality — a kind of love/hate relationship that keeps delivering lessons to this day. The memory of how my body moved effortlessly before the injury was still there, and I had what Abhijata Iyengar refers to as the “zeal” to feel freedom again.
And so I practiced- with zeal.
I remember the tearful emotion I had the first time the fibres of my intelligence touched my numb buttock and the awakening deep within, or the time my hip was coaxed to turn at a workshop with Father Joe. The unified connection transcending time and pain, where change was happening on many levels: physical, emotional and spiritual.
If you can adapt to and balance in a world that is always moving and unstable, you learn how to become tolerant to the permanence of change and difference.
Throughout my life I have come to realize how fluid life is and that it is changing all of the time whether I liked it or not. This can be the beauty, and the challenge of it all.
I am reminded of Sutra II.47 “prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam” — the persevering effort that is needed when we begin, and the infinite knowing that there is nowhere to go but here, and all that is needed is to sink into the effort effortlessly. When I dive deeply into the knowledge of this sutra I realize that all that is needed is to open myself up to not knowing, and have the will to learn. I begin to realize that anything is possible and no effort is wasted — just a constant state of movement within the changes that are always happening.
This is how to navigate change — to move freely in the flow of infinite space. To take a leap of faith. As BKS Iyengar says in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, a state of “balance, attention, extension, diffusion and relaxation take place simultaneously in body and intelligence, and they merge in the seat of the soul”. All we have to do is have the will to be present with it all — to keep the space open to be here. Is it this presence that gives us the liberation Patañjali talks about in his final sutra? I believe it is.
For the aspirant who flows in the river of the infinite potential, open to everything yet seeking nothing — there remains little else to be known, says one of Patañjali’s commentators. This is when the soul’s entanglement with matter comes to an end, and the gunas equalize and return to primordial matter. Here, there is a freedom so rich and present that no mental fluctuations occur. Change becomes paradoxically stable, and then there is nothing to navigate except the opening to our own true awareness.
Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.