Monday, April 02, 2012

Bruce Lee, a real yogi

Before I started on yoga, I remember reading a tiny booklet  by  Bruce Lee (Chinese Gung-Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self Defense)   as an impressionable collegian. That time he had become a huge rage in the south of India (possibly up north also) . My teenaged brother will take large baskets of rice and practice punching into them, for strengthening his fists. Then, he would get those ugly callouses on his hands and be very proud that he is a fighter! Since I heroworshipped my brother, Bruce Lee became my idol too.

That booklet  was a fantastic introduction to the sense of mind over body. I even today recall how much Lee uses the metaphor of water to be what we must be. I recall the incident where he gets frustrated in his practice, that he feels despite trying so hard that he is not making any headway. He is on a boat. He hits the water with his fist. It flies apart, to accommodate his hand. He has a moment of epiphany -- the Aha moment, when it occurs to him that instead of trying stiffly, maybe he should be soft and strong, like water. It sounded like a beautiful idea of strength.

 I find that when people hold poses stiffly, or become overtly aggressive in reaching a pose, often the whole essence of yoga bypasses them. This is true for the headstand. I have myself corrected a few reluctant yogis from a stiff to a softer headstand. I too recall holding it that way, out of sense of a need to `achieve' the pose. Actually it is only when you surrender to a pose, become soft in it, that you can hear it speak to you.
I have felt that of all poses. That the deepest and most satisfying part of a pose is when you can hold it with soft ease. It is fantastic this experience. For me, this is yoga. Where the center is so soft that you can barely feel it. That your mind is completely absorbed by the pose and its impact on every fiber of your body. Then you are meditating. Then you do not have a sense of time in the pose. Then, it speaks to you, of something so deep that it cannot be expressed or shared. It is just your own intimate moment with the pose.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend. (Bruce Lee). 

Of course, I also realise that u cannot be in that state of a pose without the muscles aching or screeching. But that is just a transitional phase, coming more out of your fear than from the pose itself.  Or an extreme reaction from the body to some hidden thing that could get thrown out, if you stay long enough in a pose.
Life is a tough place. Poses teach you that. They also teach you that if u surrender to that and be easy there, something happens that may be not so bad after all, at the end of it all...

So, you cannot reach a comfort level with a pose till you practice it, experience it. That is what I like about Bruce Lee's quote. I myself prefer to do the basic poses for long. No exotic stunts when I am doing my meditative practice every day. I like staying on in a simple pose. For long. Then, I realise, that is where the difficult poses become rather easy. That is how it works for me. Practice for long in my basic.. simple headstand, simple forward bend. Then, suddenly, when I try to pick a pose, that pose too opens up to me...

Be like Be water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. (Bruce Lee).


meera gautam said...

I completely love the example of water given by Bruce Lee. The purity of water lies in its innate qualities which we can be.

Llewellyn said...

Great post, thanks.

Priyesh said...

Nice thoughts!!