I am always amazed to read yoga teachers bios that go on about how peaceful and heavenly Yoga has made them and that they claim to exist in a state of perpetual bliss.
Yoga Teacher Bliss. Really?
For me, Yoga has been the most challenging path.
It is a path of ruthlessness, tearing away what doesn’t work to reveal who I need to be in the world. It is a never-ending path luring me forward and testing my discernment and strength of character and heart.
The ground is not solid. It is in a constant state of flux, forcing me to find my center, the part of me that is in fact, unchanging.
So what does any of this have to do with what we know as Yoga here in the western world?
Your little rubber yoga mat is like a magnifying glass for what is going on in your mental and emotional bodies and boldly demonstrates how your thoughts are intrinsically connected to your physical body.
The physical aspect of Yoga is the tip of the iceberg, but let us not ignore the depth and immensity of what exists below the surface.
The yoga asanas are designed to keep you healthy by benefiting all of the systems of the body. The nervous system, digestive system, circulatory system, reproductive system and so on, are all strengthened when doing specific practices appropriate for you.
Traditionally, Yoga was passed on one-on-one, from teacher to disciple. The student would take the disciplines or practices, go and do them for a set period of time until they were perfected and ready to “advance” to the next level of awareness. A student may be given a sadhana or spiritual practice to perfect over a number of years before adding anything to it. In our fast-paced, goal-oriented society we want to know we are progressing or achieving when we are investing time into an activity.
Practice Yoga for the sake of practicing Yoga.
The benefits will come, no doubt, but do not focus on your achievements, as this is a trap and will lead to comparison and dissatisfaction.
The Ayurvedic approach to Yoga considers all aspects of who you are and what you need to support you in your life right now, taking into consideration: climate, age, level of health, as well as mental and emotional stress. Yoga is used to bring balance on all levels of our being, through all koshas.
Therefore, the principle of “opposites reduce” is wise to follow.
If you are feeling over-heated or agitated, you will need a cooling practice to balance yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out, you will need a grounding, calming, and centering practice. If you are feeling dull and lethargic, then you will need a more dynamic and invigorating practice.
Each yoga posture is a well-designed instrument that has specific effects on the mind and body. Yoga is alchemy and must be investigated and experienced by you to know what supports you now. The knowing will unravel itself as you observe, participate, and notice the nuances of the practice you are doing and how it is transforming your body, mind, and heart.