Poetry is something I never understood when I was younger. Things changed when I started taking yoga. Parvathi, my teacher, would often read poems in asana class. You would be sweating like crazy in a demanding pose like ardha chandrasana 2, praying to hear “come down into child’s pose”. Instead a line from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”, met your ears and you would sink deeper into the pose, your mind got still, and you might possibly weep.
When I first started to study with Mukunda and I felt powerful energies starting to move, suddenly I was writing poetry. When I fell in love with my husband it started again and when I experienced a time of extreme grief, the verses poured out. This once foreign language of poetry helped me to express what I couldn’t express, and once expressed, my poetry powers would leave as quickly and unexpectedly as they came.
I looked up some definitions of poetry and found this online:
“The art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts.”
I loved this definition because it explained to me how poetry fits into a yoga practice. The rhythm, like music, helps to calm vata (air element). Invoking the imagination and elevating the thoughts helps to balance pitta (fire/water), and the appreciation of pleasure and beauty helps to refine kapha (earth/water element). These are things we strive to do with asana classes using the sequencing of asanas, the imagery and directional cues and the music played. Poetry can help to refine and balance these elements without ever having to step on the mat! Now, it’s not like reading poetry in your arm chair will have all the same benefits of an asana class for your physical body, but you might notice a quieting of the mind and a heightening of the senses with a few good poems.
We usually use poetry as the subject of the month in February, but you can get an early jump on experiencing the poetry/asana connection this Thursday at the Thanksgiving Day class. Warren Cooper will be reading some original works (his first poetry book will be published soon!) and Mike Wojik will be playing some music. Come see how this combo can help you get into the gratitude groove. All proceeds will go to the Frenchtown Food Bank to help our neighbors share our bounty.