As the western yoga culture seems to be maturing, people are deepening their practice and realising the shortcomings of too heavy a focus on physical asana movements.
People are branching off and finding their voice and creating new mixes and niches with different emphases.
This is beautiful.
What breaks my heart is when in order to do that, there is a not-so-implicit bashing of ‘traditional’ yoga asana as being rigid, flat, boring, unhelpful. As repetitive and separated from our natural state.
Sure, there are those days. Everybody has those days. But as a continued practice? No.
Yoga is not about putting the body into particular positions like manipulating a puppet. It is not about copying the external form and the striving to do it ‘right’. Yoga is not about repeating all those mantras of self judgement and blame that we’ve practiced for so long because we can’t do ‘that’ or look like ‘that’.
Yoga is a state of presence, a practice of turning the attention inwards to the unfolding of your experience in your body. Being IN the body as the vessel of your experience, rather than floating above it with the mind running a million miles an hour.
When you relax and drop your attention into the body and allow the breathe to be smooth, the mind is smooth.
We get closer. Closer to THAT.
You feel from the inside. And see what unfolds moment to moment.
Which means that even if you are repeating movements you have done before, the experience is fresh, constantly renewed by the openness of being open to what is right now.
It requires releasing preconceived ideas about what the image ‘should’ look like from the outside.
Instead we explore like babies crawling through a wood. Guided by the breath and the patterns she naturally wants to glow in. If we get out of the way, she will show you healthy alignment in subtler and subtler ways.
This is also why photos of yoga asana on social media can actually be counterproductive, because they can reinforce an attachment to the external & the ‘should’.
It’s a continual dance of subtle feeling and exploration, that connects movement with the unfolding of the breath. With the expansion and contraction of each breath we see and sweep away cobwebs, release, and gently open up to the full possibility of our own existence.
And you can find peace and quiet, in the refuge of your self. You find a stability and a grounding and a freedom and a spontaneity that are dancing together, made from each other.
The asana (posture) is stable and pleasant, by relaxation of effort and samapatti with the infinite. Patanajli’s Yoga Sutra II.46-47, Sen-Gupta Translation
It is undeniable that asana focused lineages and disciplines can be too strong, not adapted for students, or the emphasis can be misplaced. It is undeniable that sometimes our attitude of achievement or any other of the myriads of mental patterns are just repeated in practice.
I fully support the call to being compassion and understanding and help make yoga studios safe and inclusive for all bodies and minds.
Yet I want to also be a gentle reminder that part of thise manifestations of ego or anger or judgement attached to yoga are part of the package.
The point of yoga asana it to help work that shit out.
It took me three years of almost daily practice before I really understood that I didnt have to compete with the person on the mat next to me and how completely different that felt in my body-mind. Because of how I am and was as a person, I really believe that that intense asana was the path for me to discover a lighter, more effortless and more stable way of being.
Practice is the effort of becoming stable there. But this practice becomes firmly grounded when done intensively, properly and continuously over a long period. From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I. 13,14, Sen-Gupta Translation
There is room for all of us, and it is not my intention to talk shit about those who are forging their own path and differentiating their practice and their offerings from what has gone before.
If a teacher can help impart an attitude to practice, a curiosity, an openness, a compassionate precision, there is a style of yoga for every body and every mind. It certainly requires a good teacher who can point the way.
And I hope you can find yours, whether traditional or new-fangled 😉
May these sharings be of service to your liberation,