Recently, my partner and I were fortunate to enjoy a trip to China. Arriving in Beijing early on a dull, grey morning, we hopped in a taxi eager to begin our adventures in a destination that promised to be full of surprises.
The first surprise was surviving the ride to the hotel. From our perspective, our driver sped recklessly; weaving in and out of traffic like it was his own personal video game. With my toes curled permanently in terror, and clawing desperately to the soles of my shoes, we avoided head on collisions, ramming into cars in front of us and driving full speed down impossibly narrow lanes [some lanes marked, others made up using a liberal dose of imagination].
Finally arriving at the hotel, I stumbled out of the taxi, giddy with relief. While I thought the worst was over, as the trip unfolded over the coming days, I came to realize that everyone drove like a madman here. Not only that, but crossing the street was a hair raising experience in itself. Traffic lights and pedestrian walkways served no other purpose that to create a target range, and unless you frantically kept looking both ways as you crossed, you could be run over without so much as a second glance.
Later in the trip, we arrived in Dalian, a harbor city with endless construction going on. Stepping through the airport doors, I immediately relaxed, more at ease as I took in how much more spacious the surroundings were.
Walking around the city was a pleasant experience, drivers seemed marginally less suicidal and it just seemed a feeling of lightness was pervasive throughout much of the city.
This is a feeling I experience in my practice when I have the space to breathe, to relax. Having space to move with freedom, imagination and a lightness of being.
During some down time in between the sight seeing, I had an opportunity to reflect a little more on the experience. What struck me the most was how comfortable the locals were with the space in which they had to operate, while we as westerners were equally as uncomfortable.
I think this may be directly related to perception, and in conjunction with that, environmental factors [in this case, over population in areas that do not have the infrastructure for the residents such as parts of Beijing].
It seems that the radius of personal space here, simply evolved over time to be a lot smaller than what we are used to, but people there adjusted accordingly and went about their every day life.
It seems the challenge here is to still create space inside when there is no space physically.
Looking at this experience made me reflect on my yoga practice, specifically inversions. When I take class at a studio, I typically lay my mat down in the middle or back row. I feel stifled if my mat is right in front of the mirror and I float forward into an inversion, so conscious of the rapidly diminishing space as I came closer to the mirror.
I experience the same sort of sensation in a packed class, feeling like I do not have the space to express myself through the physical asana, conscious that if I do happen to fall out of the inversion, I will knock someone over.
Pondering the experience, it seems I need to work on create space inside when there is no space physically.
How do you perceive your space? How much personal space do you need to function at an optimal level? The physical is manifested from the mental, when you practice asana, does a clear and free mind allow you to move accordingly?
It is one thing to perceive what your space is, but another to create it if it’s not there.