Again we see the close relationship between asana and the natural world. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that the world itself is ensouled and practicing yoga; that it, too, is searching for its authentic self; and that humans are playing along, matching the world’s asanas.
Klein had said,
Part of what fuels manic consumption is the desire to fill gaps in our lives that emerge because of severed connections of various kinds—with community, with one another, and also with the natural world.
We tend to think about connections to nature as something you have to get out of the city in order to build. We’ll say, let’s take urban kids to the wilderness. I think doing that is really valuable, and I believe everybody should be able to experience that. But I also think that we have to be able to engage with the fact that we are still profoundly dependent on nature even when we are in urban environments.
I had a yoga teacher for years who was really good at getting large groups of people at the YMCA to think about the earth beneath the concrete, to connect with the fact that animals all over our world were breathing the same air as us. These practices are critical for us to realize that especially in our protected, air-conditioned bubbles, we are dependent on the natural systems that are being destabilized by climate change.
A challenge for me in moving to D.C. from Sacramento has been adapting to the “air-conditioned bubble” of the apartment house that is now my home. In my unit, I open the windows. They face north, toward an abandoned and re-wilded section of Klingle Road in Rock Creek Park. The gravel-topped roof of the parking garage keeps the treetops out of reach. I hear birds. Occasionally a sparrow, cardinal, mourning dove or white-breasted nuthatch lands to rest.
In other posts, I’ve mentioned the treasure of the garden conservancy Tregaron–amazingly and generously maintained for the public by a private trust–, and Rock Creek Park where one sees white-tailed deer and the stylish-looking black squirrels. Thanks in part to my grandmother, Kay Mergen, a Nevada transplant who had a large hand in raising my brother and me in D.C. in the 70s and 80s, I know to seek the non-human, that wilder things share the city.
Monday night, I left for an evening walk rattled by unexpected news and feeling out of sorts. The sun was setting. I stayed outside in Tregaron through dusk and into darkness, watching the little brown bats darting through the blue-purple sky. Who can watch a bat and not be transformed?
A few weeks ago, sitting by the frog pond as evening arrived, Matt, Tucker and I were startled by the POP POP POP POP of what we thought was a tree branch cracking. Before us, about 150 yards away, an entire oak tree smashed to the ground. When we investigated, we saw the tree had been over 100 feet tall. Fresh-wood smell enveloped us.
This morning, one of my students practiced her yoga lesson mostly supine. She’s recovering from a toe injury and an infection. We began in mountain pose, her feet against the wall. Then she entered tree pose lying on her back. As I listened to her breathe, I remembered the Rosen quote, and the interview with Klein.
The world is practicing yoga. When we choose to devote a little time to asana practice, meditating, reflecting on our actions and noticing our breath, we join with it.