There is a famous image of Israel’s first prime minister Ben Gurion doing a headstand. I think it’s pretty impressive that a newborn country’s first prime minister was a yoga practitioner. But this morning, it is not a romantic notion that set me thinking on this path, it is a critical one.
Headstand provides a popular image for Yoga – it stands out. It providers an easily accessible metaphor for a fresh perspective on life. For many people it is a challenging posture – and when it’s finally conquered it can bring a gratifying sense of achievement.
Beyond it’s obvious physical qualities, headstand posture has energetic qualities and it can be used to affect the body’s energy system. These energetic qualities are available in additional more accessible postures that provide less distraction and enable a practitioner to go deeper and experience more subtle qualities in practice. They are much less “sensational” and it takes persistence and patience to sense and appreciate them. They require intricate breath work and lead to meditative places.
Following is a quote (source Wikipedia) from 1957 attributed to Ben Gurion:
“Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country … There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it is simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army.”
Ben Gurion made his mark on life in a time of extremism – a conflicted birth of a conflicted country from a conflicted background in a conflicted world. A country that exemplifies and in which manifests one of the most powerful forces of friction on the planet – a conflict between east & west, between established religion and fmodern politics, between tradition and free thought. An extremism that I feel almost every where around me in Israel, and as the years go bye seems to be insinuating itself all over the world.
I don’t know what Ben Gurion’s Yoga practice was like, but I wonder if instead of doing headstands and making them famous he would have have practiced and made famous forward seated bends with long and quality breath. Would he have made different decisions and planted different seeds in Israeli society, culture & politics? If he was instead famous for inhaling 12 seconds, holding his breath for 12 seconds, exhaling for 12 seconds and holding his breath for another 12 seconds – what effect that would have had on Israeli society? What if this would have fostered amongst popular Israeli traits, things like patience, attention and respect?