Gilda Giannoni on beauty, creativity and harmony in the yoga tradition, and ways you can add beauty in your daily practice.
‘To do this yoga, one must have, at least a little, the sense of beauty’– The Mother (Mirra Alfassa)
Everyone needs a certain amount of creativity in life. There are jobs which seem to put creativity completely apart, but that’s often a choice rather than a true statement. Many jobs, even the most repetitive ones, can be improved if the involved worker uses a little bit of creativity in it.
Creativity is something which has to do with beauty and with dreams. Too many people stop dreaming when they grow up and settle down. Too many people stop looking for beauty. If you cannot see beauty, you cannot create beauty. If you cannot see and create beauty, your whole world will not be beautiful, because the way you perceive the world has to do with your inner expectations about the world. Let’s see it with the metaphor brought about by psychiatrist and writer Peppe Dall’Acqua. A young guy is in love. One day the girl of his dreams finally accepts to be with him. On the same day he receives communication that his paper has been positively evaluated by the university he has applied to. He so happy, life seems to support him. He goes to a beautiful park. There he can hear the birds singing lovely and the leaves of the trees moving sinuously. The sun shines on him and projects his shadow over the world as a symbol of his grandeur. He is blessed. Few months later, the girl leaves him and the university let him know that he was not accepted for PhD. He goes back to the same park. He is scared by the menacing singing of the birds and the sinister moving of the tree leaves. The shadow of himself projected by the sun seems so big and long and it seems to follow him like a threatening ghost.
It’s not about the world itself, it’s about you. When you think beauty is missing, you can still add it by your own. We all know that many people in desperate conditions are able to do it, while other very fortunate are not. It’s not completely about conditions, though conditions of course play an important role. And it’s not all about acceptance or contentment. Santosha, that is contentment in the yoga philosophy, doesn’t mean to be content with your sufferance. You might accept something that cannot be changed, but you have the duty to do whatever you can to avoid sufferance: ‘Heyam duhkham anagatam, The dissatisfaction yet to come IS TO BE avoided’ (Patanjali, Yoga-Sutra, II. 16), where dukha means dissatisfaction, existential sufferance, mental darkness. The solution, according to the test, is the eight-limbs yoga and the consequent self-realisation. Though in this eight-limbs path asana and pranayama are mentioned, meditation is the key ingredient (actually asana is just meant to be a sitting position for meditating). That’s exactly what you need to improve and increase your creativity. Meditation is proved to enhance the capacity of the right hemisphere of the brain, that is the part of the brain which is devolved to intuition, vision of the whole (details are catch by the left hemisphere), visualisation, imagination and fantasy. All this comes together with calm, mental lucidity and positive thinking, which are also proved to be brought about by meditation. Here we are: we have all the ingredients to create beauty!
How to start? By putting beauty in your yoga practice. In asana first, which by definition must be steady and comfortable (sthira-sukha-asanam, II.46, Patanjali Yoga-Sutra). Steady and comfortable means beautiful: beautiful to look at, beautiful to feel from the inside, bringing positive emotions both to the one practicing it and the one looking at it. Are you not that fit or flexible or that good-looking? It doesn’t matter.
You can be beautiful anyway. Beauty arrives through harmony. The harmony of a body is enhanced when that body respects its own limits and inside those limits it uses all its potential. Harmony becomes beauty in the manifestation of a unique body, of a unique personality.
Try it with some asana:
Nataraja-asana or dancing Shiva.
If you’re a woman, be graceful like in a dance; if you’re a man, add determination in this dance which is meant to destroy and recreate.
Gomukha-asana or cow face.
An apparently unbalanced twine can generate an harmonious pattern.
Then improve your creativity with this visualisation:
The island. Sit in a meditative position. Relax your whole body. Imagine you’re sitting on a magic carpet. It soars e it brings you toward the sky and toward the sun. The air is pleasant, the sun rays warm you up. You fly over the ocean. You see an island. Look at its shape. You decide to land. The sea is quiet. It’s a peaceful place. You’re alone and you’re free to do whatever you want. You can bath, explore the inland or maybe just relax. When you’re satisfied with your activity, go back to your magic carpet, have a last look at the surroundings and fly back to the place you came from. You find yourself sitting in a meditative position again.
Add some beauty and creativity in your yoga and your yoga will enhance your sense of beauty and creativity.
As Mère, the great spiritual teacher, said: if one doesn’t have that sense ‘one misses one of the most important aspects of the physical world. There is this beauty, this dignity of soul – a thing about which I am very sensitive. It is a thing that moves me and evokes in me a great respect always. Yes, this beauty of soul that is visible in the face, this kind of dignity, this harmony of integral realisation. When the soul becomes visible in the physical, it gives this dignity, this beauty, this majesty, the majesty that comes from one’s being the Tabernacle. Then, even things that have no particular beauty put on a sense of eternal beauty, of the eternal beauty’.
About the author: Gilda Giannoni has been practising yoga since 1992 and teaching since 1999. She founded her school YogaMarga in Verona in 2005 and since then she has been involved in several Teacher Training Courses, conferences and seminars in Verona and other cities in Italy. She holds a degree in Philosophy (Pisa University, Italy), several certifications as a Yoga Teacher (Italy and India) and a post-graduate degree in Yoga Therapy (S-Vyasa Yoga University, Bangalore, India). She has written articles for an Italian yoga journal and her book, Yoga, dall’Armonia alla Gioia, was published in 2012.