In Search of Lightness

Posted Sep 23, 2011

I have often heard proponents of the ashtanga yoga method (teachers and practitioners) say that consistent, dedicated, and mindful practice over a long period of time produces a body-mind that is strong, balanced, flexible and light; and this has indeed been the case for me personally. However, I do believe that the word "light" can be misinterpreted as only referring to a body that is thin with little to no excess weight.

I prefer to view "light" as meaning "Lightness of Being", versus just a physically light body. I have observed many students and colleagues that have strong, balanced, and flexible practices even though they may not be "skinny". However, their practices also radiate a feeling of lightness. In my view, this is due to mindful awareness and activation of the subtle or energetic body via the ashtanga yoga breathing system (Ujjayi breath, bandhas and vinyasa); and when this body is accessed, it produces a feeling which I call "Lightness of Being".

This "lightness" has properties which are far beyond the physical feeling of a body without any excess fat. "Lightness of Being" is expansive, joyous, peaceful, content, and seemingly effortless. It is hard to describe in words, but it can be seen in mindful practitioners that appear to just float and flow through the sequence(s) with a calm and peaceful demeanor.

There is no easy path to this state; and even in so-called advanced practitioners, it comes and goes from day to day, from practice to practice, posture to posture, and even breath to breath; however, it is definitely worth the effort to experience it for even a few moments.

One example technique that has helped Kathy and I in cultivating this awareness of the subtle body is the image/metaphor of a "hot air balloon". Imagine the basket of the hot air balloon is your hip and waist area, i.e., the area below your navel to your pelvic floor. The "balloon" is the remainder of your torso. Imagine that the flame of the hot air balloon is situated in the center of your pelvic floor at the mula bandha point. This flame then feeds energy up the spine with each conscious ujjayi breath and application of mula bandha. In other words, it is a useful image for cultivating the upward flow of prana which produces a feeling of energetic lightness and expansiveness during the practice.

Give it a try and and see if you can cultivate some "Lightness of Being". It will be well worth it....

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