As I drove to the studio, this was the sight given to me. The sun rising. The world beginning to breathe…
If you look closely, it looks like a smiley face:) There are 2 little clouds right in the center for “eyes”, the “mouth” curled up underneath for a smile (of course), and the rays shining upward through the clouds like fuzzy hair on top. Goofy, yes, but it made me smile. As if the sun was reassuring me of her warmth to come.
Winter is such a test for me. It really is a challenge. Like trying to breathe through a difficult yoga series. One flow, one breath, one movement at a time. I know this cold weather is not forever. It’s only temporary. But it’s frickin’ cold (to me) right now. And it’s Florida! But it’ll soon be warmer, I remind myself. Just breathe, and bundle up.
Have you ever felt like you were moving by another force? Felt as if you couldn’t go another step, couldn’t possibly move through another vinyasa, yet from out of nowhere some force arrived and was helping you move? Practice yoga long enough and you’ll feel it. You’ll feel this wonderful energy flowing right through you, lifting you into virabhadrasana III (warrior 3), lifting your legs into the air in headstand, feeling as if you are floating.
I am so excited to say it has a name!
I’ve felt it for a while now – being in my zone and feeling the chi all around me and within me, moving through tough postures and sequences with a natural effort. I’ve also felt it while teaching. Some classes just flow, go so smoothly, connecting with students and they with you. Maybe at times you sense what will come next, or maybe you enter class with an issue and find it resolved by the end.
It’s called shakti.
This beautiful universal energy running through each of us.
In this month’s Yoga Journal, Sally Kempton writes about this force known in Indian tradition, as well as Taoism, that gives rise to the entire universe. When I first read it, I said to myself, “A-Ha!” I was so excited to know this feeling had a name! I wasn’t just imagining it. Someone else had also felt this! Probably a whole bunch of people!
There is an external shakti which you can feel while being in nature, perhaps while standing next to the ocean as the waves roll in and out. But there’s also an internal shakti, which is sometimes known as antar shakti or yogashakti, when one is in the state of union between mind, body, and spirit.
It makes sense that there are different levels, different forms of energy. But to feel this energy moving through you while doing yoga is super cool. It can also transcend into everyday life, enhancing your senses and experiences at times.
I noticed there were times when I simply enjoyed soaking up all the little details of a sunrise or sunset, noticing the contrast between the green trees and the blue sky, seeing the smiles and feeling goodness all around me. This is shakti awake and flowing through you.
But there are also darker moments… sometimes you awake and feel full of worry and tension. Your emotions are overwhelming, almost explosive. This again is shakti, using your subconscious to work through your fears and insecurities. Go with it. Acknowledge it and let it flow. It’s only temporary. The sun eventually comes out again.
You may call it by a different name. Different philosophies give their own identities to energies and/or life forces. I am not at all attached to this one word, shakti, labeling what I feel in my practice and daily life. However, I am learning to be a student of this energy. Taking notice of how I feel at any given moment and riding with it, like a wave. Maybe it’s a small one to cruise with or maybe it’s a 10-footer with a lot of emotion attached. Whichever the case, change is constant and energy is always moving. Feel it. Welcome it. And most importantly, let go of any expectation or attachment to a specific outcome.
However it happens, this awakening of shakti within you will develop differently for each person. We all have different timelines for growth, so don’t worry if you’ve been doing yoga for a while now and you haven’t felt it. Just try to be present and let your practice open your heart and mind in its own unique way and time.