My journey to Self, through the fiery path and sweet surrender of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
It was a rippling, vibrating sensation of leaning into an edge I didn’t know I had—like scratching an itch or the feeling right before orgasm. It was almost intolerable, but I couldn’t back away. Every exhale I sunk down deeper into it, gravity hugged me close and the sensation enswathed my hips in a frequency that pitched me into the cosmic experience of nothingness.
My arms were not forgotten, swept out before me, palms up to receive, my heart sunk down and softened into the mat, stretching out in the same glorious edge of pain and pleasure. Where was my mind? Pressed firmly forehead face down into the ground, in full surrender but totally activated, turned on in this experience of release.
My breath strung through my body like a thread, piercing through the pain and intensifying with every inhale, and stitching me together again, melting everything together with every exhale. A disembodied voice told me to let gravity do the work—and how could I not? Lying here in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, so vulnerable riding this fine edge of surrender, all I could do was breathe while the weight of the world, the world I had experienced before this moment, pressed down on me, sunk through me, and released into the earth.
It must have been at least a minute at this point.
I knew this teacher always held us here forever, encouraging that emotions are stored in the hips, but I didn’t buy it. It was obviously just cognitive bias. All these yogis in spandex pretending their acrobatics was something more than it was, is just clever marketing and an excuse for spending hours in the studio and lots of money on classes and clothes, I thought. This is just a pose to externally rotate my femurs that causes intense sensation from the stretching of muscle fibers which creates the need to focus on breathing to get through the pain: the breathing equals consciousness equals an ecstatically aware experience.
It was happening. I had my moment, right there, in the middle of the room right in front of where the instructor’s mat was placed. I had been practicing yoga regularly for about three months when it happened, very curious but still cynical. I didn’t want to buy into the hype, but this was old news.
Yoga is very old news, anything that lasts that long must be worth some quality and owed some reverence.
I had gotten over my beginner’s shyness of putting my mat in the back corner closest to the door, and had started setting up closer in front. This is how I ended up crying in the middle of the most crowded mat-to-mat class I had ever been in. Tunde Borrego knows how to draw a crowd. Luckily, the lights were dimmed, and I’m a silent crier, but it was transcendent nonetheless.
It started like this. Third eye heavy on the mat, eyes sealed shut, a whirlwind of kaleidoscopic color playing on the inside of my eyelids, the ache in my hips softening into a deeper and more constant pressure of pleasurable pain and release. Then the random childhood memory pops into my head and then the person I haven’t seen in years makes an appearance, the traumatic event makes a flashback, some moments of feeling loved slip in, some moments of being hurt, all concentric around the theme needing healing. And then the tears.
Slowly pouring out like honey, unbelievable tears. The shock of crying made way for more crying, and then humility, self-judgment and more. We made our way out of the right side of half pigeon and then switched to the left to hold for another three glorious, torturous minutes and the tears flowed even harder on the other side. Then Paschimottanasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, twist, twist and Savasana.
This class marked the end of my doubt, the beginning of my awakening.
That was over five years ago, and I have been a yoga junkie ever since. I started teaching two years later, and yoga has been my absolute savior and most effective healing tool for myself and everyone I share it with. Half pigeon is still my nemesis, but they say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Ashley Shanti is a yoga student and teacher currently living in Santa Cruz, California. She has been studying yoga for five years in this lifetime, and is currently pursuing her RYT-500 and certification in somatic therapy. Her style of yoga is Ashtanga influenced and dance inspired, for a wonderful Libran balance of masculine discipline and feminine fluidity. She loves handstands on the beach, hula hooping, dance parties, A Course in Miracles, her yoga community and her beloved fiance who inspires her to choose love over fear every moment. You can find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/
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Ed: Apprentice Angelo/ Lynn Hasselberger