I’ve decided to reread The Heart of Yoga by T. K. V. Desikachar as a first step for my new study program. The sensibility of this book really captures what I find powerful about Yoga. The introductory interview questioning Desikachar about his father is very enlightening as to how to orient one’s spirit.
I particularly like the following, Desikachar says (Heart of Yoga, pg 5):
Yoga is one of six fundamental systems of Indian thought collectively know as darsana… The word darsana is derived from the sanskrit root drs, which translates as “to see”. Darsana therefore means “sight”, “view”, “point of view”, or even “a certain way of seeing”. But beyond these lie another meaning: to understand this one we must conjure an image of a mirror with which we can look inside ourselves.
The image (!) of a mirror that shows, not the surface, but the inside of what faces it, is powerful (and recursive). But how can the idea be translated into practice, or is it just a clever concept that tickles my monkey? It’s actually pretty clear to me that the practice of yoga is just such a mirror. For instance, with asana, the proprioreception one generates/receives as one moves into the poses are like the pointillist elements of an emerging gestalt centered around one’s current condition. If one accepts that the “body” and “mind” are related much as “matter” is to “energy” then one can derive equations that relate the two and with variables fed into one half of the equation can draw conclusions about the other half; going both ways.
Of course, “equation” is a rhetorical device. The actual practice of seeing into one’s mind states from one’s body states is a subtle intuitive activity that tries to form correlations between physical sensations and psychological phenomena in the moment. Actually describing that process in words would probably just look like a lot of examples of the thing recorded after the fact. I’ll try to keep this in mind and update this post with some specific examples. More generally, look to clenched jaws, limbs held static while the body moves, furrowed brows and tightened eyes, itching and scratching (!).
They happen frequently, but are difficult to trick into “ink”.