I was supposed to be meditating on sending my students enlightenment in Savasana. Instead, my mind presented a thought to me that made my heart sing… Yoga is like chess. That is why I love it. It appears finite. But it is infinite because each of us is infinite in our experiences.
A chess board has a finite number of squares. (The practical answer is 64 for those of you who may care.) The pieces are constrained to their own movement patterns. And yet, the expression of possible outcomes exceeds the greatest of minds. The interactions of the sequencing of the moves are charged with character and mood. Truly they are an artistic expression of the player.
On any given evening if you join me at the Barnes and Noble, you will find an assortment of gentlemen. They are mostly from intriguing foreign lands. They, like their countries of origin, seem to hold the secrets of this refined art but seemingly lack any understanding of fashion. Maybe the universe is in balance this way. My presence is always a disruption as I watch the movement of simulated war unfolding on the board in front of me. I love to watch how each player has his own flavor. One will line all pieces up cleanly. Dominating the board with an impenetrable precision. His counterpart may seem haphazard and disorganized; confusing his opponent with surprises and disorder. How they interact creates a dance of unpredictable out comes.
So, how is yoga like chess? In the same way, the body is finite. We are constrained somewhat by a series of postures who each have their own alignment. And on our mat, as we express them in varying sequences, they play with our bodies and minds. We become unfolding movements that are also charged with character and mood. Each game, each dance is new unto the unfolding of the day and moment of the game.
Even more, if the practice is guided by a teacher… The interaction between the teacher’s guidance and the student’s movements becomes like a sculptured expression of the chess player. The teacher must respond to the student’s own movement. Planning a counter to the students interpretation of the posture. The teacher through his actions always gesturing the student’s bodies, minds and spirits through a game of release, empowerment, relaxation and self-discovery.
In chess there are moments of surprise where one player sees in the board what his counterpart cannot understand. Through concentration and movement they teach each other to come to understanding and realization. This is the student teacher relationship. Just like chess; who is the master and who is the student shifts between counterparts as the game goes on. So it is between the participants of yoga. The student and teacher enhance each other’s understanding through the infinite possibilities of countless practices. Each moment carries the surprise of discovery, through unending moves each time the players approach the mat… or board.
Did I mention I’m a nerd?