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Twilight Yoga, by Spandan

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This article was written by Spandan, (Michael McCann), a long-time visitor and friend of the ashram, around the Spring Equinox of 2024. Spandan kindly gave us permission to share it with you.
‘The true sage brings all the contraries together and rests in the natural balance of Heaven’ (Chuang-tse)
Twilight is a mysterious time, and yet it is the time of power for the yogi. In ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’, Carlos Castaneda is instructed by the old shaman that twilight is a special time for the seeker, as it is the ‘crack between the worlds’, the liminal, ‘in-between’ time. In world mythology, this is symbolised by the Symplegades, the ‘clashing rocks’ of the Sun Door through which the hero must pass in the brief hiatus of their opening. On a temporal level, sunrise and sunset are liminal periods, auspicious times for meditation, when we dwell on the threshold of changing junctures of the day. The pre-dawn period of ‘Brahmamuhurta’ is especially commended, when the celestial ambience is charged with ‘Usha’ prana shakti. And of course, noon is a sandhya time, at the juncture of the two halves of day. Energies come into balance and the mind becomes still.
Solstice and equinox days are special days for Yoga practice because they too are liminal. At the Spring equinox, there is an equal balance between the hours of light and darkness, and we enter the liminal space between winter and summer. These liminal thresholds are known as ‘sandhyas’.
We may not realise it, but our Yoga practices are punctuated by sandhyas. There is a sandhya in the turning point between the incoming and outgoing breaths, and in the breath pause (kumbhaka) itself. Another occurs every ninety minutes or so, in that brief but special pause, before the predominant breath-flow (swara) in one nostril gives way to another. There is a sandhya in the still ‘midday’ centre of surya namaskar when we assume ashtanga namaskar with the breath held out in bahir kumbhaka.
Sandhyas are special, because the dualities of Ida and Pingala (Yin and Yang) are temporarily reconciled, Prana Shakti awakens, and the mind becomes still. This is because, the Sushumna Nadi (the ‘Most Gracious Channel’) lies in the centre, ‘in-between’, the two circulating energies, and endows liminality, on many different levels, with its power. It is the place of intersection, the vertical and horizontal poles of the cross, where matter and spirit come together; it is where the pyramidical cones of Shiva and Shakti interpenetrate, the warp and woof of Tantra, the divine matrix of existence. And this drama is played out at the heart centre, the crossroads of our being, at the meeting place of the spinal chakras, three above and three below.
Yoga Nidra is said to be a ‘sandhya practice’. In savasana, we die to the world and lie on the floor ‘between earth and heaven’. We aim to induce Pratyahara by becoming aware of the ‘in-between’ spaces- between body and floor, between the eyelids and the lips, and so on. We enter the sandhya threshold between waking and sleeping, and the deeper state of dreamless sleep. We hover between these states, sometimes conscious, other times not, and as we do, we touch deep states of stillness, peace and creativity. In the paradoxical language of ‘sandhya bhasa’, ‘we fall asleep to awaken’.
Many of the Yogic scriptures, especially the Tantras, were written in ‘twilight language’, shadowy language of ‘neither this nor that’, which entices us all the more to seek their meaning. One relevant to these reflections is: ‘What is night for all beings is the time of waking for the disciplined sage; and what is the time of waking for all beings is night for the sage who sees’. (Bhagavad Gita (2: 69)). In the truest sense, sandhyas are ‘pregnant pauses’, their ‘in-betweenness’ likened to the ‘holes in Krishna’s flute’.
Some Tantric texts such as the ‘Vigyana Bhairava Tantra’ harness the subtle power of liminality.
They feature meditations on the spaces between clouds, objects, words, and even thoughts; and even the limitless space within the impossibly narrow Sushumna Nadi. If the winds of Grace are blowing, and we are open, such practices are little doorways to the boundless spaciousness of Awareness.
‘We should consider that in the inner world Brahman is consciousness; and we should consider that in the outer world Brahman is space. These are the two meditations.’ (Chandogya Upanishad: 3: 18: 1)
‘There is a time for everything under Heaven’, and the Spring Equinox is such an auspicious time.
May it inspire us to awaken to the mysteries within and around us, and to blossom in the Divine Light.
Om Tat Sat.

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