What the Heck is Center?

Posted by: on Dec 24, 2013 | No Comments
What the Heck is Center?

I recently sprained my ankle while jumping on one of those giant trampolines. After the accident, my teacher Rodney Yee informed me that yogis should not be jumping on trampolines… oops!

Anyway, practicing with a sprained ankle (or any injury for that matter) blows!!!  In the first class after my injury, we spent a significant amount of time in tadasana with our eyes closed.  As I tried to navigate mountain pose with my new, unsteady foundation, I literally felt like I was floating 3 feet above the ground. I was hovering in and out of center like a boat trying to dock in choppy seas. I was like, “Whoa! Where is my “equal standing”?! Where is my grounding?” But then I was like, “Whoa, this is kinda cool!”

As I continued practicing, I noticed that every pose felt foreign in my new, less stable body. Was my sprained, bruised and swollen ankle teaching me something?  Why couldn’t I find center?  And what does being out of center teach us about ourselves and our practice?

In case you didn’t know, we are always being thrown out of center. In daily life, pretty much everything takes you away from the middle. Accidents, stress, deadlines, mistakes — ecstatic joy and happiness too!  All of these things throw us off kilter, but this isn’t a bad thing.  Actually,  the more we know about what is NOT center, the easier we can find center.

What??? You mean being off center is actually a good thing?

Yup.  That’s right.  After all, how are we supposed to know what center is unless we know what it’s not?

In our asana practice, we are falling in and out of postures all the time. We also incur injuries (not yoga-related, of course!). With these perceived “imbalances,” we try to find symmetry and equality in our “new” bodies, and that is where center begins.

But what is center? Is center the force that all of the other stuff revolves around? Is center the place where there is no past and there is no future?  Is center calm, cool and collected?  And in order to be there, do  you have to be all the other places too – maybe even simultaneously?

Rodney Yee recently explained center by asking us to imagine a pencil balancing on its lead point. The more the pencil approaches center, the more equal the possibilities that the pencil can fall in any direction.  So center is a kind of neutral space.  A place where anything is possible.  A place where all outcomes have  equal weight and are equally likely.  It’s a place without preferences or inclinations.

Sounds pretty amazing.  So… how do we find this place?

Sometimes we find it when our worlds have been rocked – when we’ve been thrown completely off center (or off a trampoline!), and we have to close our eyes, listen, and find our way back.  When we’re far away from being centered, we gain fresh perspective, and can actually see center more clearly.

I never thought in a million years that I would feel that an injury is a godsend, but right now I do.

Yes, center is nice. But being out of center is a part of that too. So don’t get down on yourself if you aren’t 100% centered all the time (I don’t know who is).  Look at it like a teaching in disguise.  How can being out of center reveal to you what and where center really is?

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