This beautiful essay was written as part of a group project during the Sacred Scripture module of the Advanced Yoga Teacher Training I run each year with Idit Hefer-Tamir at Sukha Mukha Yoga. So inspiring! Thanks to the authors, Natanya, Pats and Olivia.
Yoga is Magic
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Albert Einstein
As children we are filled with wonder, magic and excitement about the world around us. Every new experience brings the opportunity to explore new sights, sounds, tastes and sensations. Children have the unique ability to freely explore the imaginary world- one filled with mythical creatures, and nature-defying abilities, and all with the use of mundane household objects such as kitchen utensils, old boxes, cushions, sheets and chairs. This ability to revel in the wonder of the imaginary world enables children to move between the real and unreal with seamless ease, it is socially acceptable and even encouraged.
However, as we get older, become more conditioned and take on more responsibility, the walls between these two worlds- the imaginary and the physical, seem to grow. We begin to define and even value reality over imaginary, what we can touch over what we can’t. These barriers inhibit our ability to see and revel in the wonder and magic of the everyday. Sharon Gannon suggests these can be overcome, through our regular yoga practice, which can, in turn, transform our lives at large because “magic is a shift in perception”.
The five senses- sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, heavily govern our perception of reality. We become so dependant on these senses for our grounding in the world and construct our belief systems around them. But what if there were different ways to view that reality?
Just look to the animal kingdom and it is clear to see that things may not only be the way we as humans see them. Many animals have a very different view of the world, some have incredibly enhanced senses and some have completely different ones that we don’t possess at all. Take echolocation for instance, dolphins, toothed whales and bats use this nifty sense for navigation and foraging. They emit sounds and using the echoes, they can identify objects – that would take a pretty big shift in perception to get your head around using sounds and echoes to create images in space.
The practices of yoga are magical because they can deepen and expand your awareness “what you thought was real drops away to reveal a more expanded enlightened reality.” (Sharon Gannon).
Between 2 CE and 10 CE there was a tradition of Yoga that focused on the Alchemy of Yoga, a part of which was Magical Alchemy. It was based on investigating the science of metals and the science of the body and the links between the two. The Hatha practice developed following this era. Along with other studies such as Patanjali’s Sutras and by other Yogi’s throughout the centuries, we are able to receive the benefit of this teaching through the practice even if our understanding of the principles is limited.
“We are not cabin-dwellers, born to a life cramped and confined; we are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings. The world of the senses is just a base camp: we are meant to be as much at home in consciousness as in the world of physical reality.” Eknath Easwaran
Each time that we step on to the mat, into the world, have thoughts, listen to music, relate to others, we are affecting and making changes. We may not know what they are but can often feel them. For example, following a Beginners’ first class, the student reported the next day that she couldn’t sleep the night after the class. Although she felt relaxed, the energy was flowing strongly through her body, like electricity, particularly in her hands. This was like an awakening for her as she worked in a demanding corporate law job, living in her mind. It was a magical connection for her to her body, a switch turning on.
In yoga we are asked to trust in this magic, to practice with awareness and intention. If we practice on the mat and out into the world with this intention, we will see it, feel it and the magic will unfold.
Connect to the wonder of childhood experiences. Recall something you loved to do as a child and do it now, as an adult! It might be something as simple as filling a cup full of Milo with just one tablespoon of milk and eating it. Or it might be flying a kite, or going go-carting. Don’t over think it. When you are engaged in the activity, imagine you are your 10-year-old self, and experience the wonder!
For further reading on Yoga, Magic and Alchemy
Contemplate and maybe discuss with a friend or your class what the following quote means for you: “Yoga believes in transforming the individual before transforming the world. Whatever change we want to happen outside should happen within. If you walk in peace and express that peace in your very life, others will see you and learn something.” Sri Swami Satchidananda
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Sloka 40 “ In these practices no effort made is lost, nor are there adverse effects. Even a little practice of this dharma protects one from great fear.” How does the magical practice affect us even if we only practice a little? What effects have you noticed that you can’t necessarily explain with logic?
“In my soul I am still that small child who did not care about anything else but the beautiful colours of a rainbow.” ~ Papiah Ghosh So how did we get to this place — the grown-up zone where hearts are bruised and broken, imagination is crushed and creativity runs screaming from the room? https://www.wellbeing.com.au/mind-spirit/mind/Second-childhood.html
Sources / references
Sharon Gannon: IN THE LIGHT OF LOVE. Focus Of The Month – July, 2017
Animal echolocation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_echolocation
The Living Gita – The Complete Bhagavad Gita – A Commentary for Modern
Readers by Sri Swami Satchidananda