Equinoctial Yoga

September 21, a day before the equinox occurs here in North Central Washington tomorrow evening when the sun crosses the equator. It’s Sunday, fittingly a hot, sunny day here in the high desert, even though this morning I needed a hooded sweatshirt when I got out of my warm bed, the window open to let in the night’s coolness. I taught a yoga class at 9:00, subbing for a friend who is teaching a workshop in Mexico. It was a small class–people tend to like to stay with their own teacher–but that was fine. I enjoyed practicing with the three folks who came. I spent last night worrying a little about what kind of class to teach. Me worrying about yoga is a rare occurrence. Typically, I enter a sort of flow state once I sit down and start to teach, and the class unfolds from someplace in Being that I have no control over.

But I expected a big group of regulars, and I felt a little uncertain whether my style of class would be suitable to them. I thought about doing a class on balancing, this being the equinox and all, but in the end, I gave up and went to bed, and this morning I felt the ease of my own practice leading me to the one I would teach.

I spoke about the nature of Tantra, and how it aligns with my yoga style. Tantra, to me, is a kind of radical acceptance. Accepting the way things are rather than trying to shift them. Yoga classes sometimes tend toward the transcendental: attempting to shift practitioners into surrender, or bliss, or even acceptance. Yet surrender, bliss and acceptance must arise on their own. Yoga asanas can help bring us more deeply into our bodies, and from our bodies into awareness, and through awareness we can find our way to what is troubling us. Listening to the body. Feeling it. Feeling the stuck thoughts or emotions creates a small space through which release and relief can enter.

This led naturally enough to the equinox, which should be a good lesson to us in the difficulty of achieving equanimity. Only twice a year is the sun positioned so that we have equal hours of light and dark. All the rest of the year our days, weeks and months are a series of gradations from more light to more dark and back again. Autumn. Its etymology from the Old French is “the drying up season.” Harvest. End of summer. The Anglo-Saxon word is fall–a useful metonym and metaphor for what happens around us if we live amongst deciduous trees that shed their leaves in a rain of glorious color. A flaming death.

As the poet Mary Oliver says “the trees are turning themselves into pillars of light.” After the blossoms, the fruit. After the fruit, seeds. After the seeds, sleep, deep and dark and long. This is where we are. The time of shedding, harvesting, gleaning. The sun is on its path; we’re on ours. May the shortening days autumn carry us into a richness of Being, a sowing of mysterious fruit.

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