Feed the Flow

Feed the Flow

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says
To the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights
The whole sky.
—Hafiz

Hurricanes, earthquakes, eclipses—oh, my! April has arrived with quite a flourish, and I hope that you and yours are well and safe, << Test First Name >>. I happened to be out of town last week when Mother Nature had her outbursts, enjoying a beautiful yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Being in spacious, supportive practice with loved ones provided me with deep medicine—and timely inspiration for my teaching theme and the cosmic events of this month.

Keeping pace with the movement of the seasons, April felt like the perfect time to focus on “flow.” While it’s more of a style than a pose per se, flow is so ubiquitous in the modern postural yoga world that the word is almost meaningless—and hence deserves some attention. I grew up in the vinyasa yoga world, where yoga wasn’t yoga if it didn’t include series of sun salutations and chaturangas between every sequence (described as a way to “clear” one’s energy…whatever that meant). Once, a student even gave negative feedback for a class I subbed because we didn’t do Surya Namaskar B in a “vinyasa” class; she felt her practice wasn’t complete without it. And so, whether it’s accurate or not, this idea of “flow” is as essential to our idea of yoga as the sun is to our lives.

Energetically, flow (as sun salutations or any rhythmic, repeated sequence of postures) is just what we need in these mid-spring months. The sun is steadily increasing its time in the sky, and so we, too, can follow its lead and invite more rhythm, circulation, and heat into our microcosms. Without this vital movement, kapha would get further lodged in our systems, and our channels of matter and energy would become blocked and stagnant—antithetical to the new life on the verge of blooming this time of year. When we flow, we honor the power that melts, dilates, and animates that which has built up in our system, and transforms what we ingest into functional. Flow turns matter into action. Like fire itself, it is the central element that acts as a bridge between the gross and subtle, and which is also created by both simultaneously.

My engagement with flow in yoga has changed over the years from a fast, complex, performative style to a gentler, simpler, and more stable style (just check out my playlists as proof!). For me, this represents a significant shift in my motivations to practice at all: before, yoga was escape, exercise, and concentration of the excess energy in my nervous system, whereas now it’s a practice of maintenance and refinement. Per the Ayurvedic model of digestion—our most important application of fire in the microcosm—ojas, our elixir of immunity and endurance, can only be formed once all seven layers of tissue are fed. There needs to be enough food plus some extra to make ojas, and a steady, rhythmic flow of digestive juices to turn what’s not-us into us.

My time in Costa Rica reinforced this notion as it pertains to the macrocosm, too. It’s often taught that our sun energy (third chakra, tejas, agni, etc.) is an inner light we possess and project outward. This radiance represents our unique gifts and our personal power—our ego, in the more neutral sense of the world. While this idea isn’t wrong, it’s perhaps too literally mapping the macrocosm onto the microcosm. Because we are not the sun; we receive the sun.* Here on Earth, there is no inherent source of light; it comes from 93 million miles away. The precision of the distance between the Earth and the sun, plus the amount of water on our planet, is the only reason life exists as we know it. Just as we see in our own bodies, too much or too little of either light/heat or water moves us away from health and toward disease. Hence the disease of climate change threatening the health of our collective body.

And, more to my point, this delicate balance is in part achieved by the rhythm of the sun—a flow that only exists because we are on this watery earth. The star-sun at the center of our universe never stops shining, but we see it rise and fall, and increase and decrease, because of the rotation of our planet around its axis and the sun itself. All last week, I contemplated this as our daily sadhana ended with a group gathering at the beach to watch the sunset. The seemingly relentless light and heat that accosted our skin and eyes just hours before transformed into a glorious ombre I could stare at for minutes, totally unharmed and utterly transfixed. In the remote depths of the jungle, the darkness that followed was almost as intense as the brightness of midday—a vacuum that amplified the frightening siren of the howler monkeys and other invisible creatures around us. Equal and opposite energies creating an exquisite balance between nourishment and integration, between knowing and not-knowing.

Here on Earth, as bodies of water on a body of water, the amount of personal power we radiate depends on our capacity to receive light—and to know when we’ve had enough. The fire is not the flow. Earth and water are the flow that contain the fire.

Today we have a very special opportunity to experience this relationship with the sun during the total solar eclipse crossing over North America. In Vedic astrology, eclipses are not to be viewed since they can provoke negative mental energy; instead, it’s recommended to stay inside, pray, meditate, and chant to counteract the volatile energy of the eclipse with positivity. No matter how you choose to honor this moment, perhaps you’ll use it as an opportunity to express gratitude for the sun that hasn’t stopped shining on us for 4.5 billion years—and the higher wisdom that knew how to dose this potent, life-giving nourishment for our optimal growth and flourishing.



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