Do you know why you go to yoga? Do you have a reason…?
Maybe it’s because you feel ‘better’ after you’ve been there…? (On understanding the effects that yoga has on the body and mind, I would suggest that this is the case for everyone?!)
I’m fairly certain that it isn’t necessarily for the social aspect, though, and yet still we keep traipsing to the local studio (or village hall ; ) in droves to work in silence for our 90 minutes or so! (This said, some of my closest friends have come from my yoga classes…and of course like-minds do meet.)
Maybe yoga found you? Maybe yoga found you to help you recover from something, some ail or injury, or some breakdown or the like…
When I first started practicing yoga, I didn’t have an articulated reason why…
I am going back nearly 20 years, so maybe I’ve forgotten the why…But classes were available at lunchtimes in the company that I worked for, and when I heard that, there was no where else that I was going to be!
There was such a natural pull, that I didn’t even realise that I didn’t know why I was going!
Arguably, it’s taken me these 20 years to understand the real reason (my real reason, in any case). And it’s taken quite a lot of exploration of our western understanding of what yoga is…
This is what I think we think yoga is about:
– I think that we think that it’s about the stretching.
I’m not sure that we know why stretching is good for us (not least as the ‘sports science world’ has been arguing for and against ‘stretching’ for decades now…and still hasn’t made up their mind!), but we know we like a good stretch on our mats. And we know that our muscles feel more lithe for it and that we feel better altogether as a result…
– I think that we think that it’s about a bit of me-time.
A bit of time-out from the crazy crazy world out there… Actually, I’m also not altogether sure why we think that the crazy world is out there…when of course we bring just as much craziness in to our world as we choose… (although this is slightly esoteric – and something that yoga actually teaches us!) But still, but we definitely enjoy the permission to ‘detach’ for a while…and enter the yoga-bubble.
– I think that we think that it’s about getting some great yoga pants, and having a super-juiced-up superfood-based juice…or some uber-blissed-up energy bombs.
I’m being vaguely flippant here, by the way! However, I think that we think that yoga is a step on the road to looking after ourselves; about feeling good (and therefore looking good).
And it is! Yoga is about feeling better than before we started the class, and better than before we started practicing yoga, full stop. And I say, let the whole healthy thing get a solid footing; I’m all over that – for everyone!
(Although let’s face it, some commercial companies are making a killing on selling us the ‘looking good’ part! And good for them…)
– I think that we think that yoga is about the postures.
About getting strong enough to hold your warrior posture and feel like a warrior! And in the meantime, we will acquire a great posture!
And it is…I mean, we will – we will improve our posture, and as we practice ‘the’ postures invariably we will become stronger. This will also impact our mental strength, as well as our physical strength, and hopefully we will start to feel like warriors in our lives. Hopefully we will also become longer as we release tension, as well as stronger the more that we practice yoga (see the point above about stretching!).
The point of yoga
But here’s the thing. If there is one thing that we have ‘done’ to yoga as we’ve adopted it into our western culture, it’s that we’ve tried to give it a ‘point’.
We have done that thing that we typically do here in the west, and we’ve looked at a process, and we’ve said, ‘aha, there must be a point to this…let’s find it.’
So we’ve studied the effects of it. This is imperative in the west – we must, oh must!, have evidence to understand why it’s good for us! Otherwise, we won’t know that it’s good for us?! Of course, we can’t be allowed to trust how we feel ourselves when we engage with the practice. Oh no! That would be folly…it must be shown – unequivocally, and statistically-significantly shown that it’s good for us.
I’m not discrediting the validity of the research, by the way (not completely anyway!)… it’s worthy if it helps bring awareness to a wider participating audience, yet what I question is our processing. We have developed a tendency to immediately discredit an idea unless it’s deemed worthy by science. This has insipidly become a viral little thread in our culture, and it’s skewing our experience-based validation.
Needing a website
The practice of yoga is old old knowledge. It’s come from sages so many moons ago that it doesn’t even have a website of its own… ; ) And somehow, and even without the capabilities of 21st century science, this old old knowledge provided a system that is ‘correct’ when we explore it in our own selves (ie in our self-validating, experiential knowledge, which largely sits around how we feel as we connect to it). As it happens, this is also being shown to be so when 21st century science is ‘applied’ to it (which is fundamentally based on what ‘the numbers’ say).
But I get it – we struggle to trust in our current, modern society. Generally, we have not nurtured a relationship with our own internal mechanisms – feelings and emotions – and so we (have been taught to) look outside of ourselves for ‘the answers’. (Actually this is the reason why our internal relationship has become limited – there’s a self-perpetuating cycle there.)
Yet, we only have to get on the mat and get hot and sweaty in some rounds of sun salutation to know that it feels good, or to stretch up into downward dog, or pigeon, or…to stop in meditation. We know this on the inside. (Not least as we don’t have an option to externalise when we practice, because of the lack of any chat in our classes! ; ).
Stuck in our heads
I understand that fundamentally our western culture has gone down the path of questioning everything. It’s just what’s happened: the more we’ve questioned, the more that we’ve demanded that we question – that it’s all backed up scientifically. We have gone further and further into our heads. But I would argue that this is to the detriment of a connection to our heart and to our gut (you know, the soft stuff…).
And of course, another of the effects of this ever-deepening connection solely with our heads has left us with umpteen, and really, umpteen physical issues that we’re societally dealing with – digestive issues, heart issues, mental-emotional issues. We are chronically sick! We’re all struggling with these things individually, in our own way, and if we consider the collective, we’re in a right pickle! There’s a common thread – that we have lost a connection to our selves…our breath, our emotions, our light and our joy, perhaps and our raison d’etre…
And does yoga offer us these things? Yes, I’d argue that it can…
As it happens, the models that sit behind yoga and the postures are such powerful overlays to those that ‘modern science’ is coming up with today, that it’s extraordinary. It’s as if we’ve been trying to reinvent the wheel, over and over.
Which of course, we have…tried to, that is.
On trying to reinvent the wheel again and again in our western world, we continue to try and find new ways of doing things; new improved diets, new and improved time-saving devices. (And in the process, we’re so confused and swamped in technology and information that honestly, it seems that we’re a little bit lost in it all!)
The irony is that we seem to be ‘looking for’ answers…to our health issues, to our depression, to the impossibility of being everything and doing everything. (Our poor kids trying to be straight Aers, and excel in sport, and music, finding the perfect match, traveling carelessly and at the same time as securing a meaningful job, which of course is well-paid…and keeping up Instagram appearances… Too much? Is this the point?!?)
The thing about how we’ve taken the concept of ‘yoga’ (that was introduced into the west from India less than 100 years ago), is that we have made it into something that we ‘do’.
And we think that yoga is something that we ‘do’, because we think that the purpose of ‘doing’ it is to be like other sports in which we participate…because of the common physical element to it (and we can internalise the lack of inherent competitiveness in yoga, and just compete with ourselves…right?!).
Yet the real purpose of the posture work is to be able to sit, comfortably. cross-legged for meditation. That’s the purpose of ‘yoga’….to be comfortable enough in our body to be still, to be able to encourage the mind to be more and more distractionless.
The purpose of ‘doing yoga’ is to be. (Actually it’s to be in connection to our spiritual self, but ‘being’ is enough to begin with.)
It really isn’t actually any more sexy than that. It’s not some convoluted, tech-savvy smart anything; it’s simply that – the purpose is to be…
It’s an age-old idea, that is timeless. Its simplicity is its timelessness.
And in the process of practicing, the systems of the body will come into balance; as they are designed to (and this is why our science can show the positive effects, so, well, effectively).
And in our beingness our answers will come too (the bit that ‘science’ absolutely won’t find for us).
It may bring up lots of challenges in the process, but maybe we’ll find the connection, the better health responses, the love, and the real answers that we’re all looking for…
They’ve been there all the time…and if we’re brave enough to just let go of all of the crazy doingness, we will be able to find them. But it’s certainly not easy to let go of our attachment to all of those busy things that we think define us…
Requires a leap of faith, you say?
(Science will get around to telling us that soon as well… ; )
Oh, but in the meantime, don’t we all love a pair of those crazy, sexy yoga pants?!? ; )