Friday, June 4, 2010

Fill 'Er Up

Nothing like a fiery Argentinian M.D. yoga master to rock your practice. During extended trips to India, Ranjani Cobo studied with Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Sri Desikachar, and Indra Devi. In Calcutta, she treated leprosy patients alongside Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity. Worldwide, she championed the healing power of food long before the term “integrative nutrition" was coined.

Ranjani is one of very few women whose practice includes the advanced series of Ashtanga Yoga. Last Tuesday evening she was at Junction Center Yoga—a beautiful barn-turned-studio in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin—to share some wisdom with eight spellbound students, including (yippee!) me.

For nearly three hours we listened, flowed and learned while she performed adjustment wizardry on poses from Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) to Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand). Think winged chiropractic asana. Ranjani’s postural assists were precise, confident and liberating. Her physical mastery breathtaking. But, days later, it’s the sound and effect of her breath that still echoes.

Her breath sounded primal, an amplified audible energy that lifted her body through poses more airborne than earthbound. Imagine Darth Vader as a chuckling, mewing, dancing force for good. It wasn’t enough just to listen, we all started to breathe, really breathe. Each inhale opened space between grounding and freedom; each exhale unlocked tension and expelled inhibition.

She’s physically diminutive, Ranjani. But when she breathed, she outgrew the studio, then the whole barn. Next time you practice, picture rafters, a far-away ceiling, a well-worn wood floor. Then feel what happens when you fill the space with the sound of your breath.