Become What You WILL
Amongst the Maori peoples of New Zealand, the human fetus is a sacred and revered symbol. And while your first reaction may be a heart-felt “euwww…” understood in context it is a truly beautiful reminder of what it means to be alive….
In the beginning all the beings of creation were without fixed form. Amorphic and “fetal” in body, they were able to shift shape at will in accordance with need. So should one of these beings choose to fly, they would sprout wings and take to the sky. Should they need to swim, gills and flippers would take form. To run, strong powerful legs. To climb, long agile arms…and so on and so forth. Well after many eons, the creatures of the world fell into habit, taking the form that they were most comfortable with and foregoing change. The Creator saw that this was so, and decided to fix they’re forms in name – each according to their chosen functions.
So he called all the beings of the world before him, one at a time, and asked what it was they loved best. The first came before Creator and declared “To fly high in the sky and see far afield is what I love best”. And Creator said “Ah my child, you are Eagle. Go in peace.” And the next came before him and said “I love to run through the woods unseen and unheard, foraging as I go.” And Creator said “I see. You shall be known from here on as Deer. Go in peace.”
And thus it continued, each animal receiving his name based upon his form…until the last creature came before Creator. Unlike the others, this one was still in its original fetal form. Creator questioned the creature – “Why is it that you alone have not chosen to hold a form?” And the creature replied – “Great one, I do not wish to take a fixed form. There is value and joy in being able to run, and to fly, and to swim, and dig, and climb as the situation arises. To fix my form would lessen me.” The Creator heard and spoke – “Of all that have passed before me only you have maintained the ability to change form. And as such, only you have truly gained wisdom. You shall retain your shape shifting abilities for as long as you choose to use them, for you are Human. Now go in peace.”
The truth rings clear in this story. No creature in this world is as adaptable as man. But, just as the forms of the animals became fixed because of habit, our forms, our bodies, are as often as not shaped by our habitual actions (or inactions). If we sit in a chair all day, does our body not take the shape of a chair, rigid and immobile? If we choose to be a runner, do our legs not become strong and swift but stiff ? If a swimmer, will not our upper bodies become muscular and capable of powerful strokes, but limited in mobility? That our bodies change form in accordance to our actions seems clear. And if these actions are performed to the exclusion of other pursuits, like the animals in our story, our forms eventually become fixed. Our ability to transition, to trans-form, from one action to the next is diminished and so too are we.
Tom Sharp, Yoga Teacher
Herein lay the value of a Yoga Asana practice. Even if we spend most of our day as a chair or our free time engaged in very action specific pastimes, an asana practice gives us the time and opportunity to shape shift. We may become a Crow, or a Frog, or an Eagle, or Rabbit, or any number of things. It’s a time to break loose from the bonds of fixed form and experience the joy of motion, of transition, and of change. To become something other than our usual, and to know the sacred bliss of the shapeless. In our asana practice is the opportunity to experience what it means to truly be human – the freedom to do and become what we Will, as we Will.