Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Sound of Yoga OM-G

Every Wednesday night I let my inner yogi out to play at YogaGlo.  (You can glo too, even if you don't live near the studio - they offer classes online and streaming video here.)  Steven Espinosa teaches a beginner's class, and I plan to never graduate.  He's gentle and careful and funny and reminds us it's okay to rest, in our practice and in life, and always opens the class with a lesson about how yoga fits into our daily lives and world. 

Last night he talked about the sound of "OM."  We begin each class by sitting comfortably, paying attention to our breathing, and then, when we've become a little more present with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts, together we offer three OMs.  Steven explained how the meaning can vary across traditions, whether you learn about it from Buddhism or Hinduism or another "ism," but the overarching understanding is that it is the original, primordial sound of the universe.  So when we breathe out in OM, we are adding our sound to that that is already there, in everything. 

He also explained how it can be viewed as the cycle of life and of a yoga practice.  Beginning with your lips closed, a hum that grows into the OM, mouth open, breathing out, ending in silence with the last of the breath.  In yoga practice, we begin with breath and silence, transition into energy flow and movement, and then finish in savasana, which is corpse pose.  Thus the end of life, or the evening's class, however you want to view it. 

Every week our OM is different as different people gather and add their various energies to the universal one.  One week I felt like I was in that commercial, sitting in front of a giant speaker my hair and skin being blown back as I struggled to stay upright, the energy was so loud and strong.  Most weeks it's a gentle hum that is still filled with power. 

This week, as I tried to time my movements with my breath, it felt like I was trying too hard, I was too aware and not in rhythm.  By the end, as I relaxed into savasana, letting my hands and feet relax heavy into the floor, I became aware of a wild energy swirling through me.  The image I saw was a furious storm centered in my heart and stomach, more OMG! than OM.  Lying there, in corpse pose, I was able to detach from it enough to welcome it.  As I've been learning from the Buddhist tradition, I don't need to label and judge these things, but be aware that this too is part of life.  And last night, part of my yoga practice.  It had seemed distracting, but instead it was just waiting for me to notice it.

A lot has been happening on the ground in the Congo lately, and good change is happening as our friend and Action Kivu partner Amani has been partnering with other organizations and people to make his dreams a reality.  He wants nothing less than peace for his community and country, and healing for the women and children who have suffered so much in the conflict.  After starting a Sewing Collective to teach women a trade and give them a safe place to gather, Amani envisioned a "Peace Market," a safe, communal space along the border, where the Congolese and Rwandans could come together and work alongside each other towards peace and  a stronger, healthier economy.  And this last weekend, it became a reality, due to his hard work and the partnership of other amazing organizations including Empower Congo Women and Falling Whistles. See photos and read more about the Peace Market at the Action Kivu blog, and the testimony of one woman whose life will change by having the simple shelter needed to sell her fabrics and clothes. 

That energy swirling through me?  I think it has something to do with this.  To witness and be a small part of great change that is adding to the healing and repairing of this crazy world.  My Action Kivu partner and friend Cate and I are planning a trip to the Congo late this fall.  Amani has asked me to write his story, and the story of his community, and there is nothing I want to do more, and nothing I'm more afraid of than that honor and challenge.  Scrimping and saving to make that dream a  reality, and to sit in the midst of the swirling energy of excitement and fear, to breathe through it and accept it and work with it. 

Thanks, yoga.  

(Savasana photo: Scott's Yoga Forum)

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