Class Notes, Week 53: “Building Blocks of Alignment”

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

Aadil Palkhivala wrote this message for me.

When I asked this master yogi to sign my copy of his book “Fire of Love,” he paused for a moment, closed his eyes then crafted this.  It cuts to the chase simply and beautifully: Listen to the heart.  (Did he perhaps sense this is something of which I needed reminding?)

I spent the past several days under Aadil’s tutelage.  His “Building Blocks of Alignment” course is a requirement for the Moksha teacher training program.  While the title of this program suggests that we’d be focusing on alignment of the physical body — we explored alignment on multiple levels.

The big question for these past three days has been, “How can I align myself … with myself?”  (And through this exploration, help convey this understanding to students.)

Aadil broke it down into three parts: 1) alignment with your spirit; 2) alignment with your physical body; and 3) alignment with the material world.  When you have alignment in these three things, you have peace.

If only it were so easy, right?

During our time together, we spent 50 percent of the time exploring the physical body — from the feet to the hips to shoulders to the eyes (and more!) — and the other 50 percent of the time exploring theory and metaphysical — from happiness to dualities to doshas.

There was a lot of Q&A, with all 60 or so of us sitting cross-legged at Aadil’s feet.  He would respond to nearly every question by smiling then saying, “That is such a beautiful question.”  He would then respond slowly and thoughtfully.  Nearly every response got scribbled into my notebook as a quote.  The man dishes out beautiful lines as easily as raindrops fall from the sky.  Aadil is the real deal.

Studying under him — especially at this time in my life — inspired the sort of gentle empowerment that I need.  I really hope to carry into my life, from tomorrow onward, the perspective and peace cultivated over the past three days.  It’s been a remarkable education.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the physical alignment lessons that will ultimately prove helpful to me as a yoga teacher for my students, here are some of my favorite take-aways from “Building Blocks for Alignment”:

  • We started out each day in meditation, where Aadil asked us to ask ourselves the three questions: 1) Who am I?  2) Why am I here?  3) Where do I want to go?
  • I loved the harnessing of the mind energy, as a point of focus at the top of each class.  In seated position, with the eyes closed, begin by inhaling your hands so the palms face the ears, about six inches away on each side.  Feel the vibration of the mind thoughts (energies).  On an exhale, harness those energies by gathering them to the front of the third eye and meet the palms in namaste.  Inhale here.  On an exhale, lower the hands in namaste to the heart center, where these energies are offered up.  Repeat at least two more times to continue collecting this scattered energy and giving it to the heart.  This beautiful meditation inspires focus on the present by literally/figuratively collecting the energy of countless thoughts and sweeping it away. (We also did it with the energies of the pelvis/second chakra.)
  • Happiness is a choice, not a result.  As soon as you make the choice to be happy, things will fall into place accordingly.
  • When the physical body isn’t aligned, it puts a strain on the nervous system.  “We don’t do asana because it’s important,” Aadil said.  “We do asana because it’s necessary.”  Asana provides us with a tangible thing we can explore and modify.  “Asana helps you love your body.”
  • Alignment in life requires effort and responsibility.  Yet, there is a duality to this: You must also have faith and trust.  Finding peace in this duality is critical, otherwise you will be at war with yourself.  “Take total responsibility for everything and have total faith,” Aadil said.  Can you be content living in conundrums such as this?  If yes, you’re living from the heart.  If no, you’re living from the head.
  • Bring alignment to your energies through meditation and cultivation of focus (dharna).  When focus is scattered, you become controllable and are positioned to become a “victim.”  Yoga is about cultivating self-empowerment through focus — to prevent any victimization.
  • The two fundamental qualities to cultivate a connection to the spirit are 1) humility and 2) sincerity.  Humility opens what the ego closes (your heart center).  And sincerity is needed for right effort — if your aspiration is lukewarm, you aren’t being sincere.  You have to really want it.
  • Intentions don’t matter unless there is application.
  • The greatest education you can give your children is to help them know themselves as best as possible.  We spend our whole lives studying “other things,” when the study of the self is what’s really sacred and can affect the world positively.

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