It's a series of containers. In the tradition of the practice, this is expressed in yoga anatomy through the Koshas - again, sheaths, or coverings. This idea of layers and containment. We can use our practice as a method of discernment, or going in and peeling away the layers. Going deeper, going more internal in search for essence and clarity.
However, perhaps the Matryoshka illusion is apt, because not matter how deep we go, it's the same us, the same image; holographic in that the smallest still contains all that the most gross presents. Perhaps an idea of inherent essence or spiritus - it remains consistent and unchanging.
For me, in the classes today, the layers were about how we approach asana, pranayama and the asana practice. Had a new student today - give thanks and praise - and she seemed to have a really shallow breath, but a good practice. I was encouraging her to seek some 'sama vritti', or 'equal-cycles', the evenness of same inhale and exhale durations. I'm really big on this in the practice - getting a really metered, strong and long breath, and keeping it as the focus of the practice. Not trying to achieve more than to breath - pranayama must inform the asanas!
Some folks resonate with it, some love it, for some it's a real challenge. So, the themes that I was presenting were two-fold, but equal. Asana is a container for experience, that is the first precept. We create the shapes with our bodies and then dwell and abide in the sensations, be they what they may. We can approach asana as physical since ultimately we are using them to assist with pranayama and meditation - the more subtle practices; but we can't simply force asana to be.
As asana is the container for experience, then pranayama is the vessel for asana. Meaning, the breath should surrounding and permeating and containing the asana. As we create and envelope the pranayama around the asana, we then charge the asana as the container for experience.
Further, the pranayama adds the alchemical catalyst that helps create the deep changes - emotional, mental, physical - that our practice can foster within. We know this to be true, but we also know that it is not simply the posture, but rather the entirety of the practice. The multilayered containment, the dolls nested one inside another.
Discernment, sensation, introspection, compassion, resolution, surrender and liberation: those are some of the experiences we have through the practice. Asana, that's where we become sensate - to that which is and often to that which remains for us to process. Pranayama, that's the catalyst and the solvent for the alchemical work we are doing in those asanas.
Pranayama is an envelope, it holds the asana like a love letter. The asana is a love letter, it holds the sensations of your life and your wholeness and your fragility, like sweet written words of poetry. The words are written from and in moments and make a bridge for your spirit to cross over. Layers inside of layers, dolls nested inside of dolls...
It's turtles all the way down... give thanks and praise!