Myra Rucker is a yoga instructor at the YMCA, Nokomis yoga, and a teacher at Common Ground Buddhist Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN. This episode was particularly fun for me because Myra was my first yoga teacher, and she has become a good friend and a wonderful conversation partner on this path of contemplative transformation. I met Myra about 7 or 8 years ago I walked into a yoga studio at the YMCA in downtown Minneapolis. Like many Americans who go to a yoga studio, I thought of it mostly as a physical practice. But gradually I learned so much more about how yoga is a truly contemplative tradition – how asana and pranayama (posture and breath) are only two aspects of the full eight limbs of ashtanga yoga, which culminates in a single-pointed union with the object of one’s meditation in Samadhi. What I do recall during those first few classes – which were a vinyassa or “flow” style of yoga – is sweating really hard, feeling completely awkward, but then resting down into savassana at the end of the practice and experiencing a kind of joyful release that is hard to put into words.
It wasn’t long before I began to stick around after class to ask Myra questions and she started feeding me reading suggestions. I now began to understand what I was experiencing in that ecstatic release – in yoga philosophy there are channels of energy that flow throughout the entire body called nadis, and when we store tension, stress, or trauma in our bodies those nadis become clogged, and those blockages are called granthis. This ancient wisdom is consistent with neuroscience that notes how memories can become stored in our implicit memory systems in the body at levels underneath our usual conscious level of awareness. The practice of yoga is one of refining our awareness into the subtle layers of our mind-body experience so that we can release those granthis; as we do so we naturally move toward deeper states of meditation, contemplation, or union.
Myra gets into some deeply personal reflections about religious and racial identity that we hadn’t really breached in our previous conversations. I’m particularly grateful for her vulnerability in discussing this on the podcast, as I think it speaks directly to many of the issues we’re dealing with at the crossroads between contemplative practice, identity, and social justice issues in our culture today. I hope you find this as refreshing and challenging as I did listening to her experience.
I’m very excited to share Myra’s wisdom with you all! If you’d like to learn more about Myra, or attend one of her classes, check out the sites below: