were ashtrays in every seat. People smoked during movies,
right in the theater. People smoked in restaurants. Before
yoga, I never cared if someone near me was smoking. After
yoga, a whiff of a nearby cigarette would almost make me
vomit. This was a big problem for me for many years, because smoking in restaurants wasn’t banned in California
for another 20 years.
After a couple of years of asana-pranayama-meditation, my
sense of touch became so refined that I did not like to be
touched by anyone—except by the ocean, the wind, and the
sun. I spent two hours a day being fine-tuned by the elements, and when I would be around other human beings, I
found it slightly draining. There was only one Rolfer (
deep-tissue body worker) who I would let touch me. I had an
incredible yoga practice but I was profoundly lonely because
I had become like a cat who wouldn't let anyone pet him.
Jugupsa hits everyone differently. Matilda was 26 and had
been meditating for about six months when she discovered
that for some reason she did not like the smell of her husband’s skin. She was worried about her marriage, thinking
she was either crazy or something weird was going on with
her hormones. It turned out that a slight adjustment in his
diet fixed what was bothering her. He was also living with
too much stress and needed to start joining her in a yoga
practice; stress stinks. But some people don’t find the fix
and lose the relationship. Over the decades that I have been
doing private sessions, helping other meditation teachers
and yogis make subtle corrections to their practice, I have
heard hundreds of cases like this. All of a sudden you are
disgusted by something, and this can’t be ignored.
What is going on here? It may be that yoga practice sets
in motion hormonal changes that are in some (probably
small) way like those women go through during pregnancy.
Yoga and meditation influence the chakras, which correlate to the endocrine system. Both pregnant women and
yogis are moved by instinct, by the innate wisdom of the
body to feed the new subtle bodies developing inside them.
When you awaken to prana, the pranamayakosha, you
might feel that your annamayakosha is impure for a while.
There is a general principle that when you wake up to a
subtle body, the next denser body can seem impure. This is
an adolescent phase, similar to going through puberty and
one day looking in the mirror and all you can see are your
flaws and all the ways in which your body does not conform to a narrow, punishing view of what a woman or man
is supposed to be. You do not want to get stuck in this adolescent mode of Ew, everything is gross. You want to keep
returning to love, what you love about being in a body.
One principle to keep in mind is to balance purity and
strength. It takes real strength to function in the world
with the sensitivity of a yogi, and if you become too pure,
the world can become intolerable. Everyone is different;
one person might do a chakra-opening exercise and feel
open and loving when they walk down the street. Another
person doing the same exercise may become too open, and
feel that they pick up stress or become depleted just from
being around others. Meditation, pranayama, and asana
can make you feel so pure you become like a white carpet
that constantly picks up dirt.
Love is the great purifier and can help your body to deal
with things that otherwise would choke you. Around 1973,
I discovered great nightclubs in Santa Monica, Venice, and
Marina del Rey. I loved dancing so much that I would put
up with the rancid cigarette smoke that filled the air. When
I would come home at 3 o’clock in the morning, I would
take off every single piece of clothing I was wearing and
throw them in the washing machine, take a shower, shampoo my hair twice, soap every inch of my skin, and fall
asleep in the happy exhausted afterglow of the dancing.
This was a huge discovery for me: to find that if I wanted
to be in a place intensely enough, the fire of my love would
purify and protect me.
You need every instinct to be functioning fully in order
to stay pure. If you haven’t had enough sleep, you may
feel dirty and irritable, and in that case, an afternoon nap
can be the most purifying thing in the world. Sometimes
laughter is the most purifying thing, other times tears, orgasm, or sweating your prayers in dance. Seek and you
shall find your own unique way of balancing sensitivity
Dr. Lorin Roche was lucky enough to begin practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation in 1968, and he still feels like a beginner—every day. He was trained as a
meditation teacher in 1969-1970 and has been sharing the delight ever since.
Lorin is the author of Meditation Made Easy, Meditation Secrets for Women, and
The Radiance Sutras. At the University of California at Irvine, his Master’s Degree
work focused on the injuries and developmental crises provoked by meditation and
opening the chakras; his Ph.D. research was on the language of meditation - the
way meditators describe their inner worlds. He lives in Marina del Rey with his
yogini shaktini wife, Camille Maurine.