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September 2014 - Yoga and Pigs
Dear Yoga Friends,
There are yoga poses named for cows, crocodiles, dogs, fish, lions, turtles, snakes, scorpions, and birds of all kinds. What about pigs? I may be wrong, but I don't think that the Sanskrit word for pig, sukara, appears in the name of any yoga pose. Perhaps there is a shared root with sukha, happiness or comfort, for which we have sukhasana, simple cross-legged pose. Have you ever noticed that pigs always appear to be smiling?
Why this newfound fascination with pigs and their connection with yoga? You guessed it. The latest addition to my family is a pig. Getting in a good yoga practice can be challenging without a pig, so one of my first concerns upon arrival of said pig was how her presence around the house would interact with the existing baseline level of chaos.
Before we can delve into the pig's yogic aspects, there are two important porcine qualities that you need to understand: (1) pigs are the fourth most intelligent animals, after humans, elephants, and dolphins; and (2) unlike dogs and cats, pigs are fundamentally prey, not predator. So a pig is a very intelligent, shy creature. Building a relationship with a pig rests on making it feel safe. Training a pig involves almost entirely positive reinforcement of good behavior, and almost no punishment or negative reinforcement of bad behavior. The pig's sensitivity and intelligence demands a strict practice of ahimsa.
What the pig has to teach us about yoga is that we cannot always make our gains by brute force against mental or physical resistance. Yes, there are times when we need to push, but real transformation comes about only with a sensitive application of intelligence. We can liken our muscles and mind to the pig. A tight muscle can tighten even more if forced or "threatened". Similarly, a stiff mind might get increasingly resistant when threatened. Instead, bring intelligence to the stiff area, or as Guruji might have said, to each cell of the stiff area, so that the stiff area becomes receptive and real change becomes possible.
Finally, just as food for thought, and certainly not to challenge any of you dog or cat lovers, I'd like to suggest that a pig can be a useful mirror to explore our true selves. Winston Churchill said:
And let me know if you know of a "pig pose"... Sukarasana?