My teacher, the spiritual leader and humanitarian, Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī, visited New York last week, to my great happiness. Amma gives her blessing in the form of an embrace; in the last 30 or so years, she's hugged around 30 million people all over the world. You may have heard the Sanskrit word darshan used to describe this embrace; darshan can be translated as auspicious sight. I like to think of it as meaning a glimpse of the divine—or simply, love—as witnessed and felt by the eyes of the whole body and soul. Suffice to say, these hugs can be a profound experience indeed.
Equally profound are Amma's talks at these occasions. She communicates deep ideas and concepts with warmth, humor and simplicity. What really struck me at this year's gathering was how she spoke about patience. Patience is the foundation for all growth, she said. One can't peel open the petals of a flower to make it bloom; the unfolding must be unforced, the revelation arrives in its own sweet time. She spoke also of our tendency to look for happiness outside ourselves, when its real home is—well, at home. Inside.
This may be a familiar idea—certainly it's discussed a lot in yoga classes—but it's not always easy to let its truth unfold. We want to hurry up the process, hurry up the happiness: Give us all the joy of summer, now! Our physical practice, asana, and breath work, pranayama, let us sail towards this idea a little more smoothly. With practice and care, we can begin to let the poses come to us, let the breath come to us. As BKS Iyengar writes, the breath must “be enticed or cajoled, like catching a horse in a field, not by chasing after it, but by standing still with an apple in one’s hand. Nothing can be forced; receptivity is everything.”
I've been working with opening up in this way: exploring backbends to open the chest and reveal the heart; gently stretching the quadriceps to facilitate this and also to open the stomach meridian which may need attention in summer; and, crucially, slowing down; easing into summer's ripe, luscious, yang fullness, rather than rushing in. Letting oneself take restorative postures—yes, even in the morning! Moving into cobra pose, inch by conscious inch, and back again. Here is a sequence I've been enjoying. May it bring you joy, too.
Suptavirasana summer sequence
Begin in virasana on a block, opening stretches w strap. Tadasana, warm up/bring synovial fluid to joints espec knees. Sivananda-style sun salutations (back knee down to open through hip flexors). Adhomukha to crescent lunge, pushing down into back foot to protect knee and low back. High lunge with bent back leg to open quad, then straighten—flow w breath. Vira 2-high prayer flow. Trikonasana. Prasaritta padotanasana with fingers interlaced to open chest and shoulders, lengthen spine. Salambasana, Dhanurasana. Sphinx. Frog. Cobra, super slowly. Forearm dog. Sirasana. Child's pose. Suptavirasana using block and bolster (option one leg at a time for beginners/those with sensitive knees). Twist supported with bolster. Child's pose with bolster. Suptabadakonasana. Savasana.