An underwater experience teaches Coral Brown about the yogic wisdom of going with the flow.
I grew up on the water. When I was a child in Bird Creek, Alaska, my family drew our cooking and drinking water straight from the creek. I spent summers in Rhode Island swimming, canoeing, bodysurfing, and generally spending as much time in the rivers and the ocean as I possibly could. Today, I kayak and surf year round, teach yoga on the beach, and am a student of Shiva Rea, whose Prana Flow Yoga is deeply influenced by water and the way it flows. There are few things in life I am more passionate about than increasing awareness about our planet's most vital resource.
So it seemed natural to participate in the underwater cover shoot for the May 2011 issue about honoring and protecting the Earth's waters. I was enthralled by the prospect of holding poses while submerged, and at the same time evoking the many elements of water—her healing and nourishing powers, her profound beauty and fierceness, her spirit.
Comfortable as I am in the water, I found myself getting flustered, even slightly panicked, once we started to work on the shoot. I'd been told to expect the work to be challenging, but this was more difficult than I had imagined. I struggled to hold my breath for as long as possible, exhaling just the right amount of breath through my mouth so that I floated gently underwater, without sinking to the bottom or rising to the surface. At the same time, I had to come into a pose without gravity, manage fabric as it flowed and wrapped itself around my body, keep my eyes open, and let my face be relaxed and calm.
After a few difficult tries, I realized that as I juggled all of these elements, I was missing the most important one: surrender. It was only when I stopped trying so hard and thinking about it all that I was able to experience the magic of being in the water. The sheer joy of floating while effortlessly sustaining lightness, the stilling of action, and the total peace of mind enabled me to stay underwater for much longer periods of time and to fully enjoy the experience.
Throughout the day of shooting underwater, whenever I had the thought 'I can't hold it anymore,' I immediately released the thought of holding and replaced it with thoughts of unlimited potential. I continuously reminded myself of the greater purpose of this underwater adventure—to honor the magnificent bounty that the Earth's waters provide.
These moments of freedom, of faith, of liberation, affected me deeply. As human beings, we may have varying levels of physical strength and skill, but it is the body-mind connection that is our most powerful tool. When we can consciously let go of trying to control our present, when we can release rather than resist our struggles, we give ourselves the gifts of surrender and faith, which sustain us.
YOGA JOURNAL, MAR 2011