September 15, 2012 § 5 Comments

Spanda, the yoga teacher says, is the pulsing of the universe, from the cellular level on out. You can feel it, she says, if you are sensitive enough. I am a skeptic, and at this point in my life, inflexible. People often say I “look like the type who would do yoga,” whatever that means. My mother also thought I “looked like the type who would smoke pot,” but neither is really true. I only appear calm on the outside; I am full on type A inside and have little patience for the illogical, the mystical. Except when it all makes sense.

This unbendable body is not who I was. I was a cheerleader, a ballerina of sorts. I could do the splits at one time in my life; now, I am the worst student in the room. My hips have been tightened by running, tensed by holding my body up for so long. I need several blocks and blankets and props, and I still can’t make my knee touch the floor like everyone else. Maybe if I push it down with my hand, I can force it to the ground? No, too conspicuous. This is who I am now.

My friend, Sheila, who brought me here, is a natural. I can hear her breath as her body bends and stretches, expanding and contracting with the spanda, which is the point. I have to remember not to hold my breath. I am glad the teacher reminds us.

Spanda is “the subtle creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form,” according to a yoga studio website I found. In my head, as I am trying to breathe and stretch, I am calling bullshit on the idea that the spanda can be felt in the air if you are sensitive enough, even though I want this to be true. I want to be connected to the tides; I want to believe that as my dad always reminded me, “this too shall pass.” Or as the yoga teacher says, life contracts and expands. Where’s my goddamn expansion, I think.  Where’s my creative pulse? But I have heard this term before, haven’t I ? Spanda, no spondee, in poetry, which is, according to, “A metrical foot consisting of two long or stressed syllables. of libations, spondaic, from Greek spondeios, from spond, libation (from its use in songs performed at libations).

I find these examples from Tennyson, and it all makes sense:

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

-from “Ulysses”


Be near me when my light is low,

When the blood creeps and the nerves prick

And tingle; and the heart is sick,

And all the wheels of Being slow.

-from “In Memoriam”

My blood is creeping out to my fingertips and toes and something is loosening, but still, when we lie on our backs in Shavasana, the corpse pose, where you are supposed to fully relax–you know, the one most people go to yoga for, five minutes of delicious nap-like time–nerves do prick. My low back, as they call it, is in pain and I have to breathe and breathe, quietly, so as not to disturb my floor mates, until it finally relaxes, my muscles expand just a little, and I sink into the ground.


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