31 Aug The Consciousness in Asana by Swami Durgananda
The Consciousness in Asana: Dive into experiential anatomy
by Swami Durgananda, August 2022
The power to create extraordinary things exists in him naturally
on account of his experience of the divine power.
Shiva sutras III.37
I marvel at the fact that we exist. How is it that we are alive and that we know it? And how is it that this extraordinary world, that we play in, is manifest? How is it that we can see, touch, taste, smell, hear and come to know all this?
The path of non-dual Tantra tells us that everything is consciousness: every thought, idea, feeling, experience, object and every life form. Inherent in the nature of all things is divine power and we can gain access to that power, that energy, through yogic means. It may not always be easy to take this point of view, but just a small shift in perspective, in this direction, often gives great insight into ourselves and the manifest world.
In asana practice I am looking for the dance of consciousness within my body. The yogis say it exists naturally, so I search for it, finding where it is hidden. I like to ask questions and investigate, diving into the internal ocean of my body, looking at the physical and subtle movements from the perspective of the Self. As I explore the physical structures and processes that are my body, I follow the various currents and burbles that arise, seeking for clues of consciousness.
With this attitude, my practice and teaching has deepened. In unexpected places I have found ways to align more easily with the flow of shakti, the kundalini energy. This different, inquiring way of looking has helped to uplift and enhance my awareness of the composition and structures of my body. From this perspective I have found that ‘advanced’ yoga is not to force my body into more complex shapes or taxing vinyasa (though occasionally they might be fun) but, rather, to develop subtle sensitivities.
To ‘experience’ my anatomy enlivens the kundalini energy and is what I call experiential anatomy. Experiential anatomy is the felt sense of the various structures and processes that form my body. Perceived as a map, the felt sense of the body, is a gateway to explore consciousness, and the body as awareness, energy and bliss and to feel the dance of the kundalini shakti. I see the human body as a means to explore universal relationships and connections, investigating the flow between the physical form and the subtle realm. Asking: How am I connected to the outer environment, to nature, to the people around me? How can I be in harmony with the world I live in? How can I do this while I maintain my awareness of self and deepen my connection to divinity? Every moment can be a moment of yoga, of Tantra. To use the experience, you are having in this moment to lead you into the aliveness of your human form is Tantra.
I feel it in my bones: The quality of bone marrow
While on retreat in Ganeshpuri India the home of our spiritual lineage, I had an unexpected experience of experiential anatomy where a new connection was revealed. Whenever I am in Ganeshpuri I feel the powerful shakti of our lineage strongly. I feel as though I am inside Bhagavan. I feel like I am in the womb again, being nurtured by his mystical energy and supported on all levels.
I was a little jetlagged and trying to stabilise in this new environment, we were only a couple days into the retreat and I was teaching a yoga class outside Kothavala, the Indian style mineral-springs ‘resort’ where we stay. During the class I had a very strong experience of the primordial nature of my bone marrow.
I stood on the earth. Underneath me I could feel both the sturdiness of the ground and an ancient energetic aliveness. I felt this aliveness as a deep reverberation throughout my body. I inhaled deeply, enjoying the feeling of being held, energetically, inside Bhagavan. As I breathed out, I connected with the earth through my bones. The organic earth elements within me began to resonate with the terrain below me. Through the connection, I felt my internal, supporting structure align with the earth. My skeleton effortlessly supported my shape. The alignment was also subtle, an energetic expansion and fullness. My awareness simultaneously began to deepen inwards and outwards.
Concurrently, I travelled into my bone marrow and deep into the subterranean earth below me. Inside me, I became acutely aware of a primordial, fiery hum resounding within my bones. The meditative images that surfaced were like volcanic molten lava beneath the earth’s surface. The geothermal heat that warms the hot springs in Ganeshpuri was resonating in my bones, stirring a feeling of unity with the earth and consciousness. A continual, vibrant rumble of shakti-filled, restorative warmth flooded through my body. My bone marrow, the earth and Bhagavan resonated as one.
The initial sensation of resting in this place was very energising and healing. However, I became aware that if I stayed too long it would become tiring and drain me. Much like bathing in the hot springs can become de-energising if one stays too long. I travelled my awareness out of the marrow and resurfaced through the layers of my bone and continued to teach the yoga class. I felt restored and more in relationship with my environment. I had experienced the anatomy of my body as a continuum of earth and shakti.
Below the surface: The consciousness of bone marrow meditation
Awareness has shakti. When we place our awareness on something, the shakti of our awareness awakens the shakti of what we are focusing on. Take this understanding and ride your awareness into the consciousness of your bone marrow.
Within our skeleton is a burbling rumble of life. The inner most space of bone, the medullary cavity, is laced with hollows which are filled with red and yellow bone marrow. The red marrow is responsible for creating red and white blood cells. Through the production of blood cells our body is energised and immunised. If you feel ‘bone weary’, or ‘dry as a bone’, hydrate them by spending time in your bone marrow. Use the shakti of your meditation and yoga practice to nourish your physical form.
- Rest comfortably.
- Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths to focus your attention.
- Gently place a hand on some part of your body where bone is easily felt. I suggest your arm or leg.
- Open the awareness of your hand to receive information.
- Become aware of your hand touching the outer layer of covering, your skin.
- Sense the container of your skin surrounding, wrapping and holding your body.
- Slide your awareness underneath your skin and drift through the various tissues and rivers of your body until you reach your bone.
- Pause a moment and connect with the outer layer of your bone.
Feel its smooth, outer covering: sensitive, solid, protective, compact.
Feel its quality.
- Deepen your awareness and become aware of the next layer of bone, not quite as dense. Feel the mix of spongy and dense bone in a latticed, honeycomb framework.
Pause here noticing the different quality this brings into your awareness and body.
- Go deep into the heart of the bone, into the medullary cavity (the hollow of the bone which contains blood cells).
Feel the rumble of life in the medullary cavity.
Feel the breath flow here.
Feel the energy being created.
Internally, rumba with your blood cells.
Notice the quality and energetic sensation this brings to your body.
- Stay here for a little while, breathing slowly.
- When this meditation no longer feels energising, travel your awareness back through the layers of your bone and out through your skin.
- Pause a moment, feel the richness of your shakti-filled blood, flowing through your body.
- Explore any asana of your choice, using the information you have just received.
Swami Durgananda, a disciple and master yoga teacher at The Ashram in Mount Eliza.