Just because yoga is commonly perceived to represent universal and transcendent values of peace, non-violence and unity does not mean that it is above or can be consumed in isolation of politics
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A recent special issue of the National Geographic, titled Gender Revolution, makes a fascinating study of how youths around the world are increasingly pushing the boundaries of gender and sexuality to mould a sense of self that is more fluid and non-binary. This shift can only happen in the context of generalised growing social acceptance and awareness of the limits stained male/female, girl/boy binaries. A spin off is a progression towards gender equality. Of course, some societies are better at accepting these changes than others.
Central to gagaku is the Japanese concept of ma, meaning “the space between”, or “powerful space”. To the late Takemitsu, ma was the “void that isn’t empty”, a space between things that is full of energy. This concept filters through other pillars of Japanese classical art and philosophy, such as feng shui and specifically garden landscaping. Indeed, Takemitsu, considered his music to be like walking through a garden, where your senses are lifted as you traverse towards greater peace and harmony - a tree rustles in the breeze, a bird takes flight, light falls in a dappled pattern across your path.
"The high value put on every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy”
These wise and contemporarily relevant words are from Herman Hesse’s 1905 essay titled, “On Little Joys”. The German-born Swiss luminary is widely know for his novels Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. A less widely circulated treasure is My Belief: Essays on Life and Art. Hesse laments how the “aggressive haste” of his time (gosh, what would he say about our time?) has eroded our ability to enjoy leisure. This does not imply that - in the straightforward sense - there is no time for leisure, but rather, his point is more subtle.
How do we harness the power of sharing in an online global community of yoga practitioners without loosing sight of how yoga - in order to be yoga and not just exercise - is principally an internal journey?
The practice of yoga mudra is grounded upon an understanding of the five elements that comprise the universe: space (or ether), air, fire, water, and earth. It is said that each finger corresponds to an element: the thumb represents fire; the first finger represents air; the middle finger is space; and the ring finger is earth and the little finger represents water. As we are grains of sands in the great theatre of the universe we too are made up of these elements. When all five elements are working in harmony the body is balanced, optimally operational and healthy; when any one of the elements becomes too dominant, polluted or weakened, the body shifts out of balance and discomfort, illness and disease develops.
At some point during this dark void of frustration and flagellation (that loomed over every minutae of my everyday life, just like my research and dissertation had done for 4 years prior), I came to the realisation that I never wanted to fill a conventional job profile in any case. If my ‘skills’ and title were to serve me in any way it should be to enable me to not have to have a ‘9 to 5’. But, it is very difficult to think of oneself as a cog in the economy, and not employed gainfully, whilst being in a city.
As part of the Nafs: breathing solo art exhibition at the South African National Arts Festival, I filled a separate room entitled Interior room: interscendent with a series of paintings created with a flow of acrylic, guided by palate knife on paper. I began working with the idea of representing yoga asanas about six months ago, using charcoal and pen and concentrating on body forms. Over time, I have reworked, rethought and recreated the style. In conjunction with this, I have undergone an emotive and bodily healing process linked to my yoga, and fittingly the paintings have become more bold, free and abstract.
There are these moments.
Ruptures, in the flow of life when you
reveal yourself in naked acceptance.
and a shard of certainty slices through the clotted flesh of doubt.