Sunday, 23 May 2010

Eight of Swords and Yoga

I was thinking this morning about how I could combine two of my passions: tarot and yoga. Of course, there's the whole thing about adopting the position of the person on the card, but for the most part that might be meditative or give you physical insights, but it won't be yoga. What pose might best represent the energy of a given card, I mused.

For some reason, the Eight of Swords popped into my head. At first I thought of some kind of bound pose, to represent the idea of feeling trapped, but that the ties are of your own making. Then I considered how many people are stopped from doing yoga in the first place because they say they aren't strong or flexible or fit. As one of my teachers always said, "Start where you are!" This thinking that we can't do something most certainly stops us from actually doing it, rather than any of the specific objections.

There is a moving story of a child in India who was quadriplegic. His mother took him to a guru, who would physically adjust him into each position throughout the class. After several years of this, the boy was actually able to move for himself. So, start where you are now, and you will get somewhere. If you let your thoughts stop you trying, you will never move. And this is definitely my take on the Eight of Swords.

However, it's not just for those who don't want to start, it's also about what to do when you get stuck in the middle, and about the power of not thinking, not trying. I'll give two examples from my own practice. The first time I practised yoga was when I attended a yoga retreat. The teacher was amazing, so flexible and strong, while I couldn't even touch my toes when warmed up. At one point she did this move where she jumped her feet forward beyond her grounded hands, and then dropped down to the floor - kurmasana, turtle pose. I laughed at the notion that this was possible for a normal human being, gave it a bit of a go, but couldn't even get my feet to my hands, never mind beyond.

So, nine years later, and I've been practising off and on, but with quite easy video classes. I go back to the same retreat centre, and a different teacher guides our classes. I'm in the flow, and she says, "jump your feet up just beyond your hands", and I do it, without thinking. Then she says, "sit your bottom down and stretch your legs out", and suddenly I'm there, I'm a turtle! In the intervening time, I hadn't thought about this pose, or attempted it. But all the other things I had done had made me stronger and more flexible by increments, without me really paying it much mind. And now here I was, a turtle! This is what can come of not (over)thinking something - the direct opposite of the "analysis paralysis" so often associated with the Eight of Swords.

Next problem: how did I get out of it?!

Once again the Eight of Swords comes to mind. I got myself into the position without thinking, but once I was there, that voice started up in my head. "This is all well and good, but what are you going to do now? You're stuck!" In the Eight of Swords mindset, my thinking ran, "I got into this one way, I have to get out the same way, but in reverse". It took flexibility to get into the pose, but it took me a while to figure out that to exit it with even a modicum of elegance, what I needed was strength. Once again, yoga showed me the solution to the Eight of Swords mindset is to think outside of my assumptions or what got me into that position to start with. To stop being a turtle, I had to turn into a fire fly - titibasana. Softening my legs a little so I can get my hands under my shoulders, I lift up and fly!

So, peeps, what get's you stuck, and how have you found to get out of those situations?

By the way, the image is the Eight of Swords from the Shadowscapes Tarot. I love the shadow aspect, the swan trapped, yet the smaller bird able to fly free. Would love to hear your thoughts on this variant of the Eight of Swords!


  1. You are the bendiest person in the WORLD!

    I like the idea of Tarot and Yoga being linked and look forward to finding out more about that - even if I end up all 9 Swords about it (ie in bed with painkillers!)

    Ali x

  2. Och, I'm not even the bendiest person in the UK! There're some great yogis up in Scotland, too. On a side note, how come so many extremely talented people end up in the Highlands and Islands? Like the Guinness record holder for speaking most languages...
    Anyhow, more tarot and yoga blogs are on their way ;)