This is a reply I made to an open blogging query on Elephant Yoga.
In the documentary, “Anusara: The Heart of Transformation,” one of the rock star teachers (I forget whom) said that it was a revelation to him the first time he heard John Friend bid the class to “Enjoy your breath.” He had never considered that breath was something to enjoy.
Similarly, it kind of bowled me over the first time my Anusara-Inspired teacher said that John Friend says we practice yoga to feel joy. Well, not really bowled over, you see. I am a sociologist and we are the academy’s curmudgeons, trying to rev the engines of critical thinking. We’re not popular. So I mulled it over for a while. A long while. Picked at it, pulled it apart and smashed it to goo on the pavement.
Yup, much to my surprise, it held up.
Indeed, in my own career, I have been very much inspired by something my child’s math teacher said about emotions being a gateway to learning. “And I’m not going to make your kid cry,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye, “so we have a lot of fun in here.”
Indeed, sociologists of emotion tell us that emotions connect the inner and outer worlds. A scholar of 80s-era AIDS activism suggested that while rage had its purpose in mobilizing movement adherents, it tended to crowd out other collective emotions that people wanted to experience, such as, I don’t know, grief?
The world presents us enough opportunities for seriousness, pain, sorrow and grief. Our practice is not silent on those things, indeed, I have the biggest box of tools ever for dealing with all that. But why compound that by failing to lighten the heart? The yoga teachers from whom I have learned the most have also been the ones who have made me laugh, consistently. Lightening up is a very weighty gateway to the heart.
I can’t think of a funny way to end this, except to share that as I was writing this, my daughter came in and we had a laugh about how I need manpris (man-capris, “knickers” really) to keep from sliding off in bakasana. There also was that teacher who joked, this time of year, about “Lake Richard,” referring to the puddle on my mat.