LEAH BRACKNELL YOGA

Expanding Asana

Since I was 5 years old I wanted to be an actress. I loved nothing more than immersing myself in a world of my own imagination, creating characters and bringing stories to life. I have been fortunate to see childhood dreams evolve into a career, exciting in its unpredictability. And even now, many decades later, I still enjoy the journey of discovery and exploration, peeling away the layers, to search for the essence of a character.

I discovered Yoga ten years ago, or rather, Yoga discovered me, and as my practice has developed I realise that my background in acting has influenced how I approach asana. Each asana is like a new character, rich in colour, life and complexity; with its own story to tell and its own mystery waiting to be revealed. Each posture contains its own magic that can enrich our practice adding a dimension that can be transformative, challenging and liberating. Each posture has its own identity and unique quality that can open the door to a wealth of learning and creativity which can enliven and inform our journey in Yoga.

Exploration of the symbols and metaphor of asana can unlock hidden meaning and significance unique to ourselves; body and mind working in harmony. It is as exciting as it is illuminating and can lead us towards a new level of awareness.
Consider: Eagle, Tree, Cow, Bridge, Cobra, Plough, Dancer, Fish etc. What do these images conjure up in your mind?

Next time you come to the mat to perform Mountain pose, for example, pause, reflect and observe. Can you see yourself standing atop its summit surveying all below you, the light of the sun warming your brow? Does it feel strong, stable, immovable? Or does it represent an uphill struggle towards your goals? Do you feel lost and alone? What does your response tell you about how you are feeling in this moment? Or Natarajasana/Dancer- why is he dancing? What is he celebrating? What can you celebrate about yourself and in your life? Or the Crescent Moon – how does the cycle of the moon affect you? Does your mood wax and wane? Is it inconstant? Are you aware of your hidden depths? How much “lunacy” is in your life?

Not only can we draw on Hindu mythology and cultural traditions, but from all cultures that have resonance for us. This can underline the universality of the symbols and broaden our perspective of them. Symbols and imagery are vital to our understanding of the human condition and the lives we lead, they reveal a hidden truth through dreams, visions, art, poetry and psychoanalysis. Opening our minds to the secret life of asana causes us to reflect. It can force us to ask ourselves difficult questions, and sometimes shines a light on questions we did not even know we wanted to ask.

In the columns over the next few months it will be my pleasure to share this creative approach and share some of my favourites. But let the process be a spring board for your own journey of discovery. Make it your own experience.

Explore for yourself the beauty of each asana and its hidden message. Let asana be a gateway to expanding awareness, broadening perceptions and unlocking the mystical and spiritual.
For me it has revealed a wealth of inspiration and insight, and it draws me back to the mat every day.

Enjoy.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN YOGA MAGAZINE JANUARY 2010

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