How Do You Get There?

Last weekend I headed out to Yogasana Center in Brooklyn for a weekend of teaching by Donald Moyer, long-time student of B.K.S. Iyengar and founder of the Yoga Room in Berkeley. Since I wasn’t 100% sure how to get to the studio, even after being there before, I thought a quick Google Maps consultation would be a good idea. It said to just take the subway to Atlantic Avenue and walk a few short blocks from there.

Still, Atlantic Avenue with the new Barclays Center is a huge transportation hub, and it would have been simple to get lost if I hadn’t been to Yogasana before. Something deep in my memory told me where to exit the station to make the journey easier.

Interestingly, a lot of what Donald discussed was a map of the body he created for his own practice. It involves shields (kind of like chakras but more protective than churning) of various colors and sizes at strategic positions in the body. For instance there is a shield right in front of the 5th lumbar vertebra.  These shields are found through several junctions of bones and muscles and relate to one another in interesting ways…so if you breathe into the intercostal muscles of the rib cage, you can lengthen towards a shield that is situated right in front of the 1st thoracic vertebra (admittedly this sounds more like an X-Box game for yoga geeks than a practice).

In our first session, Donald had us think about his diagram via pranayama. During my meditation practice the next morning, I traced his patterns in my own body. By being quiet and focused, and after getting lost in the forest of my being more than a few times, I figured out my way and was able to access more spaciousness, stability and mobility in the poses we took during the later sessions. A gentle and soft-spoken teacher, Donald would simply say to students who experienced a sweeping awareness while demonstrating “that’s good, I’ll take that.”

Much of what was discovered in Donald’s classes is now submerged in my unconscious. But the memory of how peaceful my practice felt is still very much alive. I know I will use his map again. And perhaps, when I understand it more fully, I will be able to guide others in its use.

The map that Donald taught, and those maps of teachers before him, can’t be called up on your computer or iPhone, and it’s hard to access them when you are truly lost. Your mat or meditation cushion grounds you directionally. The world of the body, mind and spirit take a lot of time and patience to enter, but with sustained effort and fortitude, the views along the way become more clear and serene.

— Brette Popper

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