Why Knot?

            For the past 16 years, I literally tie myself into knots over the idea of eventually attaining enlightenment. Before sunrise, when it is still pitch black outside, I tangle my body into the form of a knot. I stand barefooted, clothed sparingly on top of a rubber thin mat placed directly onto the floor.  I breathe loudly and with determination I squeeze myself into a knot-like assemblage of the body. The same knot is formed on both sides of the body. Once there, I remain for a minimum of five very deep long breaths. They are special breaths called Ujjayi, meaning ‘extended victory.’ In other words, I’m to stretch my breath, make it ‘victorious,’ controlling the value and length of each inhale and exhale while staring at a point on the ceiling with calm albeit alert eyes. The goal is to stay in this knot effortlessly, assuming a comfortable stance, prepared to linger like this eternally with an empty mind and lack of emotion.  After five breaths, I detach myself from the posture, untangle myself loose by resuming the prescribed breath counts and movements. If for any reason a thought would suddenly arise and cause a disturbance to my monotonous breathing, part of my body would immediately tense into an involuntary knot of tension - an inner calamity would ensue.  Hence, my focus must remain intact as I watch from a distance the thoughts that appear and disappear while my entire body relaxes into the yogic knot I’ve constructed.  Though the intent is consistent every morning, the feel of the body wrapped into this knot has a spectrum of sensations ranging from heaviness, pain, discomfort to a lightness and ease. Everyday I wonder which it‘ll be and attempt to decipher the reasons behind the particular sensations of the morning practice.  I analyze the activities of the prior day as to locate what could have triggered the ‘dis’ ease or the lack of agility in entering the same knot, at the same time, at the same place, with the same technique, with the same body…though perhaps not with the same mind?

            The noose posture, pasasana in Sanskrit (see illustration above) is the term by which this particular asana is referred to in the yoga circles around the world, specifically the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System. If you happen to be adept enough to be practicing the Intermediate Series or Nadi Shodana (nerve purification) of this yogic system, then the noose posture appears after having completed the first 26 standing postures, and then is followed by 57 other postures. This sequence is performed five times a week within a span of 90 minutes.  And so, I knot myself up in the mornings whether alone or surrounded from what can be 10 to 50 other fellow practitioners.  At other times I demonstrate it to a few beginners or up to 200 viewers. I teach it, explain its constituents and assist others in exploring it as to attain its powerful benefits. For some it is a great challenge and requires time and effort through heat, repetition and perhaps a string of grunts. The access to the posture lies not in the physique but in attaining the key to untangle the corresponding knot of the mind. This is the art of yoga.

            But why intentionally ravel myself up into a state of immobility only to untangle myself?  Perhaps to relive the experience of freedom and its negation, repeatedly? Or have it proven to me that anything is possible – knots can be dealt with.  That I can be taught to be my own surgeon or “doctor of the jungle,” as is recited in the mantra I repeat before commencing practice. It is a path that I trudge upon every morning, as do others worldwide.  To me, it is a symbolic study of the dialectics of knots.  I train to do and undo; to like what I dislike; to be detached from the things I love; to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations - In essence, to resolve opposition. I tackle entering unlikely and challenging situations as to be adept at undoing myself into a state of emancipation. This daily repetitive action is a practice of observation, a study of the weaving of opposites as to produce a tapestry showing the way to transcend the dualistic nature of life. After many years of practice, this tapestry of knots is my personal map of an art of opposites. Yoga became a lifestyle for me, an art of living. And I, the artist creating my existence, painting my destiny onto the tabula rasa provided – the yoga practice mat.