Seeing With Your Eyes Closed
By the beach prophet
My 12 year yoga practice was brought to an abrupt halt after an unfortunate encounter with a drunk driver that left me with a brain injury. The 18 month recovery took me through countless brain exercises that involved doing an activity with my eyes open and then repeating it with my eyes closed.
A month after the accident, I returned to my 80 minute hot yoga class that had previously been a daily ritual. I made it through the ten minute warm up and spent the rest of the class lying on the floor. Once a week for the next 9 months, I built up my balance and stamina until I could finally complete the class again.
But my brain therapy had revealed another level of practice.
Prior to this, my practice mainly involved watching myself in the mirror in the front of the room and pushing to improve my form. (The standard being set by the ultra-flexible, ultra-strong women in the class, behind whom I endlessly trailed.)
Rather than just look in the mirror and then push my body to the next level, I began attempting the same postures with my eyes closed, just as I had done in brain therapy.
What I discovered (besides the fact that balance is very different with the eyes closed) was that my body was telling me what it needed. Looking in the mirror and pushing my flexibility approached yoga like a task master driving a servant to a new, demanding level.
With my eyes closed, I could sense exactly what my body needed in that moment. Sometimes I went deeper into the posture.
Many times, I adjusted my form to step back from the “perfect pose”. The contrast showed me that I had been pushing my body in uncomfortable ways that I was completely unaware of with my eyes open.
Gone was the need to compare myself to the super-yoginis in the room.
Gone was forcing my muscles to stretch even further.
Suddenly my practice was just me.
Just the wisdom of my body.
Just the soft feedback of what I required in that moment.
Keeping my eyes closed usually only lasted a few seconds before needing to open them to regain my balance, but that inner wisdom began to guide my practice.
I discovered that sometimes it is during moments when I cannot see that I see things the most clearly.
If you’re ready to look within in your practice, start with baby steps. Your brain uses a combination of physical feedback as well as visual feedback to create balance. When you remove the visual, you face a whole new learning curve.
Start in small spurts- a few seconds at a time.
Master the simple poses- such as mountain pose, where both your feet are on the floor. Then go for downward dog.
Add in balance poses and try closing your eyes for a few seconds at a time.
Be patient with yourself.
Approach this the way a child approaches a new activity for the first time.
Don’t expect any huge revelations. The wisdom comes quietly and in subtle ways.
This is like starting a whole new practice. Remember how you stumbled in your first yoga class. This new practice will be similar.
Seeing with your eyes closed opens whole new world for you.