The Sweetness of Being Lost in the World.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ~ Cynthia Occelli
According to the Hindus, Surya (the sun) is the spiritual heart of the world, the creator of life, and the energetic source of all that is to come. Surya Namaskara (sun salutation) is a sequence of dynamic asanas traditionally performed in the morning to greet the new day.
The classic Ashtanga variation Surya Namaskara A is a cycle of nine movements named with the Sanskrit numbers 1-9, and beginning and ending in a standing posture with the hands joined at the heart.
The practice of sun salutations honors both the outer world in which we exist, and our own inner universe, at the center of which our own energetic source or sun illuminates consciousness.
As we are each miniature worlds unto ourselves, a sun salutation is a microcosm of the days, seasons, and phases of life through which we are in constant transit.
Eka (one) — the first movement in Surya Namaskara A — inhale to reach the arms up
Spain, 2008. You are running away from home. You leave behind your family, your friends, a house in Toronto that you lived in for 21 years. You take only what you can carry on your back. You think if you can start everything over, maybe you can learn to love yourself.
You begin to stumble through Spanish, find your way around Malaga and Torre del Mar. Learn the texture and tones of the Andalusian coast.
Consume a liter of olive oil per week, drink more wine than is entirely healthy, practice Iyengar Yoga with a Spanish teacher who starts and ends every class late. Let the sunlight melt the hardness around your heart. You plant a seed.
After 10 months, you can give directions to lost travelers in relatively fluid Spanish, but you still don’t know how to find yourself. You meet a charming boy who is not at all right for you. And follow him to Germany, thinking if you start over, maybe you can figure out this business of loving yourself.
Due (two) — exhale to fold forward
Germany, 2009. You can’t even begin to stumble through the language, it’s too complicated. You give up wine and switch to beer. You break up with Mr. Charming. Get back together. Break up. Get back together. Take a 200-hour teacher training in Cologne. Teaching makes your skin sparkle.
You’ve never done anything that feels so terrifying, and yet so whole. You break up, get back together. Crack, fall apart, gather up the pieces.
Trini (three) — inhale, come halfway up
Denmark, 2010. You run away again. Find a desk job you hate. Drown yourself in imported German wheat beer and home-brewed schnapps. It’s dark all the time. Winter in rural Denmark is a flat bleakness in which you are always standing outside, looking in on someone’s glowing hearth.
You do not consider trying to learn the language. This is not a place where you belong.
You spend hours at the office, Googling how to get to India from China over land. Fantasize about all the possible running away scenarios that will fix this hell you’re in. Stop doing Yoga. Let your heart go hard.
The seed lies dormant.
Chatuari (four) — exhale to jump back
Germany, 2011. Run back to Mr. Charming. Or maybe it’s really Yoga that you’re running back to. Teach. Re-learn how to come undone and put yourself together again. Tentatively start to speak German. Rediscover that seed, let it send out the most tender tendril of a root.
All the breaking up with Mr. Used-To-Be-Charming gets tiring.
Pancha (five) — inhale to upward facing dog
Canada, 2012. Run home. Everything is the same. You are different. Your siblings buy houses, get married, have babies. You are starting at the beginning, again. Take another Yoga teacher training.
Find new studios to build your transient nests, add new friends to the tensile mesh of your network. You have become resilient, but your roots resist the soil. You cannot hold.
Shat (six) — exhale to downward-facing dog
Germany, 2013. Run back. Roll out your mat and start again. Know that wherever you are, your practice is home. Know that it brings you closer to loving yourself.
Find a new flat. Buy a bed and a rocking chair. Use the box the chair came in as a makeshift table, because owning too much furniture is still something that scares you. Meet a charming boy who’s perfect for you in every way.
Sapta (seven) — jump forward, inhale halfway up
Germany, 2014. Pack your rocking chair back into its box and move in with this oh-so-perfect mister. Together, buy a vacuum cleaner and an insanely heavy cast iron pan, the kind you almost need both hands to lift. Together, paint the kitchen. Together, roll out your mats.
You don’t break up, but sometimes you feel like you have to turn yourself inside out and change everything because the old heart you had wasn’t big enough for this massive love.
Find roots in the sound of your key sliding into the front door, in the smell of pan-seared zucchini, in the slowing of his breath as he dips into sleep beside you.
Find roots in your ability to glide between languages, in the way German words start to creep into your English vocabulary and set up cozy camps there. Find roots in the stories you tell about where you have come from and where you have been.
More than ever, find roots in the fluid dance of your Yoga practice — like slipping into a steaming bath, it always brings you home.
Learn how to stay.
Ashtau (eight) — exhale to a forward fold
Your landlord gives you notice: you have to get out by the end of the year.
Nava (nine) — inhale to stand, reaching the arms up
You don’t know where you’ll end up. But you know you’ll be taking a rocking chair, a vacuum cleaner, a cast iron pan, and a charmingly perfect boy with you. Know that you never get to stop starting over, that every breath is a new beginning.
That the only chance you have to love yourself is in this breath right now. And then exhale, and begin again.
Samasthiti (from the Sanskrit sama (balanced) and sthiti (stay), both the beginning and end of Surya Namaskara A.
Liz Huntly is a mover and shaker, a barefoot philosopher, a collector of languages. She mostly lives in Cologne, Germany, but feels at home anywhere she can comfortably get into Vrksasana. She’s infinitely curious about the body and the breath, plants, art, magic, beauty, failure, and how to find the sweetness of being lost in the world. She wants to watch you fall in love with Yoga. Liz teaches workshops and retreats internationally. Join her for some delicious New Year’s regeneration in Tulum, Mexico, December 28, 2014 – January 4, 2015. Details at her website.