My husband has become a glass blower. Lately he’s become completely captivated by creating bowls, vases, flowers and other objects. As his work progresses, I have begun to see similarities in the process of giving form to glass and my understanding of yoga.
For a glassblower, starting with unadulterated material is key. From an artistic standpoint, adding color or shape can be exciting and fun, and it is always done later. But, any enhancement to the initial chemical elements clouds the ability of light to pass through the finished product making its gunas more tamasic and less sattvic.
In yoga, the yamas act as a purification process so that the basic material you work with is free of particles and bits that stand in the way of the self’s ultimate recognition of the Self.
Glass in transition is heated to over 2,000 degrees. That’s a lot of tapas or heat. Clear glass in a furnace glows with possibility. It takes skill and study to gather the fiery substance on a pipe and begin to work it into an object.
Just like the molten glass, a yoga student harnesses the flowing emotions of desire and anger and then cools them down in order to shape them. In yoga that shaping begins on the mat with asana. In glassblowing it can happen on the marver table…where the hot glass is rolled from side to side to create smooth edges.
For the yogi in asana, habitual patterns of the body reveal themselves. For the glassblower, these traits show up in the straightness or strength of the sides of the vessel. If the piece is uneven the glassblower will need to reheat the glass and work it more…or utilize tools (like props) to get the piece in good position.
Further the glassblower uses a pipe to try to create a smooth exhale. The practice of pranayama can foster this kind of control. After a bubble is blown there is a short retention or an antara kumbhaka that enables the air sac to balloon.
When a piece of glass has been worked to satisfaction it goes in an annealer that slowly cools the piece down. It’s kind of like pratyahara. The cooling in is a drawing in and a closing off of the exterior so that the piece withstands any more manipulation from external sources.
After the piece comes out of the annealer the artist examines it. Is it worth keeping or is it better off recycled so that the process can begin again? The yoga student asks himself that after each practice…am I there yet or do I have to start all over again tomorrow.
As my husband practices non-attachment by sorting through his pieces after a day long session, tossing a large percentage of them out, he doesn’t realize what a yogi he is becoming just as I am becoming better at blowing glass.