Well, I wasn’t lying when I said that there will be more yoga entries on this blog. Since writing the previous entry, the connection of the mind and yoga has been prevalent in conversations and in my practice and I thought it would be appropriate for me to touch upon the mind and yoga relationship.
Many Westerners, me included, are first exposed to yoga through their gym or a physical fitness class at school. After we get past the idea that yoga is simply stretching, we see it as a rigorous physical exercise-after all, we do practice it in a gym. However, perfecting the physical practice is not the ultimate purpose of yoga. Yoga is not practiced so that we can develop extraordinary flexibility and fold into a pretzel shape or gain massive core strength to balance into crow pose, then a tripod headstand and then lower ourselves in slow motion into chataranga. Although yogis can do amazing things with their bodies, those movements are only a means to the ultimate goal(for lack of a better word) - achieving a clearer mind or state of consciousness. A dumbed down explanation of it is that yoga is a moving meditation pairing physical movements with proper breathing to achieve clarity of the mind and thus strengthening the awareness between mind and body and universe.
Unfortunately, people's perception of yoga as strictly a physical exercise does perpetuate if individuals are never exposed to instructors who speak about yoga as a holistic practice or they choose to ignore their hippie instructor or perhaps they never even hear their instructor because they are too busy trying to stick every pose while checking themselves out in the mirror. The gym mentality is a strong and ugly beast that is bolstered by the American emphasis on competition. Admit it-there have been times in your practice where you want to be more flexible, more balanced, more focused and ironically, more yogic than the guy or girl next to you. The first step is identifying these instances and the next step is to shift your mentality.
I wanted to touch briefly on this topic tonight because I wanted to plant the seed that the practice of yoga is not actually fully yoga until you recognize the mind element of it. Maybe this will provide you with the revelation you have been looking for to elevate your practice or perhaps it is a stepping stone to your understanding of yoga. Either way, I think this awareness can at the very least, help you start respecting the practice as a whole. So next time, don’t roll your eyes when your instructor spends time breaking down ujjayi breath, instead, let it empower your practice and take your mind and body further.
Until next time,
breathe deeply & practice clearly