Recently a man delivered a new eftpos machine to the school. Intrigued by the space, he started talking to me about Yoga. He was adamant that he “didn’t like stretching”. Once again I became aware of how Yoga is sometimes still misunderstood as being simply physical exercise or just ‘stretching’. I decided I again had to write about what an amazing practice it truly is.
For most, practicing postures is the entry point to Yoga. And yes, one aspect of Yoga is very physical. A practice can feel like a workout – not just stretching. Our body is the ‘temple of our soul’ and unless it is comfortable to live in, we are not mentally or emotionally comfortable either. We need vital energy to flow freely throughout our joints, muscles and organs. Asanas – postures – remove blockages and with it tightness, stiffness, discomfort, and aches and pains. Our organs begin to function more effectively. We can cure or at least improve many, even serious ailments. It is so wonderful to inhabit a well functioning, ‘smiling’ body. It is the pre-requisite for the next steps to come.
FEELINGS & EMOTIONS
The practice of postures turns our awareness inward, and makes us more aware of areas we would not necessarily focus on voluntarily. It brings our attention to feelings and sensations the physical body is expressing. Sometimes an intelligent adjustment of the alignment of, or the approach to some postures, may alleviate some discomfort. There is a good chance that the sensation simply dissolves when looked at more closely. The issue here is that it requires some courage and discipline to allow that level of connection and to go inward more deeply.
Everything we have experienced in our lives has settled somewhere in the body and left an imprint. Our body is the storehouse of our personal history. With the practice of Yoga, stored emotions can come to the surface. It has the potential to provide us with a release and relief, which can be profound. Yoga certainly brings us in touch with our emotions and teaches us to be honest and acknowledging, when we begin to look at them closer.
Now we have brought our body to a more comfortable place. The level of comfort can certainly vary from person to person, depending on their conditioning. One doesn’t have to be ‘fit and bendy’ to practice Yoga. It helps on the Yoga journey if one is in the position to develop a strong and flexible body, but it is not mandatory.
As yoga postures aren’t purely exercise, but are practiced mindfully and in sync with the breath, they have a wonderfully centring effect on the mind. One develops a surprising level of concentration, mental stamina and strength. Now we might be able to enter the stages of dharana and dhyana i.e. concentration and meditation.
This is where the difference between Yoga and exercise becomes most apparent.
Once we move with the breath and begin to look inward, when we sit still and invite our mind to just be with the breath, we connect with something deep within us; we allow ourselves to get in touch with our wisdom and knowing. The emotions of love, compassion and caring envelops us. This frees up immense joy and lightness, and the feeling that “everything is good as it is” (T.K.V. Desikachar), right at this moment.
Although there have been, are, and always will be difficulties and challenges in our lives, which can “darken our heart” (T.K.V. Desikachar), there are many moments, in which everything is good as it is, and we can allow ourselves to feel joy and contentment. Let’s deal with the difficulties at an appropriate time. Right now is time for practice, connection, fullfillment, abundance and joy. We are allowed and encouraged to experience them in this moment and to their fullest.
Edited by Donna Smullen
P.s. Donna has always edited all of my written newsletters – and quite extensively! I thought it about time I credited her for this.