I seldom mention enlightenment and spiritual aspects of yoga when I teach yogasana/yoga asana (physical poses practice). Not because it’s irrelevant to me, but I believe staying on the gross physical level of existence lowers the risk of students getting confused and stuck in mind-fucks about the weirdness of yoga practice. It’s a way to meet the mind where it is. The spiritual experience of yogasana will come anyway, for those who stick to their practice and are open to notice it.
I remember when I started practicing yoga; my system was extremely stressed, I was unaware of my body, mind and energy, I couldn’t for a minute sit in stillness and I was incredibly frustrated even with yogasana practice in the beginning. Trying to relax made me restless, listening to relaxation audios made me laugh.
In that state of mine, meditation was IMPOSSIBLE!
Living in this fast-paced world where there’s “so much to do” and we spend so many hours a day in school or at work, seated day in and day out; we NEED movement, physical exercise and help to calm down the nervous system from its state of almost constant stress. For most of us, we need to address this before we can come into deeper states of awareness and meditation.
So the focus on the physical yoga practice in this (Western) society has its place. Nonetheless, we’re way better off in our practice if the teacher knows that there’s something more, that yogasana is just a starting point on our way to approach a (deeper) state of yoga.
Only putting your body into a “yoga pose” doesn’t mean you’re doing yoga. You may get some physical benefits from moving your body and you’re likely to injure yourself at some point, as the awareness and the state of yoga/wholeness isn’t there.
I’ve noticed this many times in my own practice, when from the outside it looks like I’m practicing yoga, moving my body into “yoga poses”, but my mind is anywhere but in the body. Those times, I’ve been stressed, my mind unable to release the planning and fantasizing about the future, or I’ve been checking what my baby daughter is up to on the floor beside me. Not even being able to unite mind and body, we’re not getting anywhere, except for into more stress.
But not “doing it right” is not a reason to stay away from practice! It is PRACTICE, right?! We’re practicing because we’re not already there. We’re practicing to ask ourselves, to look at ourselves, to feel ourselves, to get to know what we really are.
We may not become enlightened in this body, in this lifetime. Nevertheless we can move closer towards enlightenment, training ourselves to become more aware and more conscious. On the path we’ll gain health and wellbeing, the traits of our very nature.
As far as I understand, very few people in this world are enlightened. I stumbled across one of them and find his explanations of yoga to be…ENLIGHTENED! Exquisitely clear, intelligent, straightforward, balanced and explained with humor and love.
His name is Sadhguru and here are his words about the physical yoga practice:
“To lead you towards the experience of yoga – of union and boundlessness – we manipulate the energy and move the system in a certain way. Physical postures are one aspect of this. Understanding the mechanics of the body, creating a certain atmosphere, and then using the body or body postures to drive your energy in specific directions is what Hatha Yoga or yogasanas are about.”
The entire article is worth reading, thank you Sadhguru!
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Photo by duncanduncan12011