The details of any posture will not be found in external alignment after a point. These nuances arrive when the posture is born from the inside. In the Vedic paradigm, the external forms because the energy existed without form first. Form comes from the need to support the energy – ie. form comes from the need for function. When we build postures externally, it can be difficult to make room for the subtle life to fill the posture in.
This is the story of the 10 senses (jñana + karma indriyas). They were born because the Tan Matras (subtle senses) needed a home to experience what they were sensing. This means, the ears were born because the Tan Matra of hearing needed a way to be experienced.
Keep reading to learn more about these Tan Matras. ⤵️
We can build asanas + move Prāṇa this way too.The result is so profound you’ll never want to practice Yogāsana any other way.
As we are neither robots nor machines, we cannot turn on & then turn off & expect to run well. However, often we engage with Yoga (& many aspects of life) this way. We are either on or off or turning on or turning off, but we are rarely peacefully steady. It takes a lot of energy to jump between extremes. Long-standing fatigue & a life that moves too quickly for nuance will make this seem like the best choice – to be all in or all out.
The Path of the Middle Way or the Path of Haṭha Yoga, neither subscribes to this as the constant jumping between Rajas & Tamas, it takes life away from the liver. It sucks Prāṇa out because the rhythm of living is so disturbed & inconsistent.
Resilience comes when the doer, the Yogi, can blend the Ha in the Ṭha – the active in the passive & the Ṭha in the Ha – the passive in the active, so that to that practitioner (& any external eye), it is clear that there is action in the stillness & stillness in the action. This is Yoga, this is where Prāṇa’s power is lifted, this is the location of deep transformation.
Tan Matras – The Reason We Have Senses
The way our lives function, the internal is revealed by the external. This makes sense of course because so much of our life is externally focused. We use our senses constantly and they make us feel like we are alive and interacting. We actually use our senses so constantly we don’t even know we are using them and then need to engage the senses in even more heightened ways to feel we are alive. This is why Kṛṣṇa tells us not to do action for the fruit. This is also why mudra and dṛṣṭi are used in āsana practice. They control the senses which then guides the mind. The less the external stimulus, the better the focus because our senses, when turned outward will always chase more sensory stimulus and yet never satisfied.
This is why Pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the senses) and Dhāraṇā (the focus of the sense on a single point) from the Yoga Sutras are so important. The overuse of the senses causes us to feel compelled to use them more and more to feel like we are actually participating in life. This is the concept of Samanya (that like increases like) of Āyurveda. The inborn processes of Yoga aim to break this. Thus, they include the simplification of the use of our senses so that
- We need less stimulus to feel present
- We can be present and feel alive/like ourselves without external (or eventually internal) stimulus
Additionally, we learn through the Sāṅkhya Darśana (Philosophy) that the senses were created at the very END of the creation process. We did not grow ears so that we could fill them with sound.
Actually, there was sound, so we needed hearing, and thus we developed ears. A Three-step process!
The Yoga and Āyurvedic Sciences recognize that subtle energy created gross energy. Often, our experience in the physical world is that the gross energy reveals the subtle, but this is just because we are learning these processes after we are very established in our bodies. We are so identified with our bodies, minds, and the things they can do, that it becomes difficult to separate from the “seeing is believing” paradigm.
When we practice Yoga, we are given an opportunity, should we choose to take it, to slow down and begin to perceive the world in its smaller parts – Guṇas (qualities) and Tan Matras (the experience of the senses – seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling). When we do this, we can perceive the body as a container that we can direct, develop, and care for depending on how we engage with the Guṇas and the Tan Matras. We can build our outer world as it was originally created according to Sāṅkhya, rather than forcing our inner world to change according to the crunch and crush of the busy, less sensitive material world.