[photo: Lalbagh Flower Show, Bengaluru 2011— Linda G. Swaty]
Happiness that, in the beginning, is like poison, but, when transformed resembles nectar (i.e. immortality) — that happiness is born of the clarity and tranquillity of the ‘spirit of oneself’ and is declared to be sattvic.
That, which, in the beginning, through contact between the objects of the senses and the senses, resembles nectar, but when transformed becomes poisonous — that happiness is known as rajasic.
— Bhagavad Gita XVIII.37-38
Every good cook understands the importance of presentation, taste, and digestion. In order to entice the diner, food must first appeal to the eye, then the nose, and finally, the tongue. But how often do our senses lead us astray — such as eating one too many slices of pizza? Then the delight of pizza turns into the pain of indigestion. That’s what the Gita is referring to when it says that which first tastes like nectar and later turns to poison is rajasic. Greed and delusion are not the ultimate sources of happiness.
Teaching yoga is like being a good cook: we depend on the beauty, grace, and rhythm of the pose being “served” to entice the beginner. Our task is to wake up the intelligence. How can we spice it up to inspire beginners to continue long enough for the intelligence to penetrate?
I encountered Dog Pose three and a half years after beginning yoga. In my very first Iyengar yoga class, the teacher had a flexible young woman demonstrate. Her point of not over-rotating the hips to prevent dumping into the spine was lost on me. Knowing how tight my hamstrings were, I inadvertently blurted out, “You want us to do that?” Although everyone laughed, the pose tasted like poison to me. It was indigestible. I couldn’t understand why it hurt me and not the others.
That was thirty years ago. My pose has changed radically. It feels stable, there’s less fatigue, and I feel calm. That which first tasted like poison later turned to nectar.
2012 Bruce M. Roger