What Are We Actually Doing in Asana Practice?

What Are We Actually Doing in Asana Practice?

Yoga is a tool invented to save us from our mind, our conditionings and cultural biases. Yet Yoga has been so transformed towards a western expression of our mindset that this expression has become whats really alive inside of us.  This cultural of youth is using yoga as a workout – at least some of us have used yoga to start from that place which is not bad, but down the line we want to look what we do and how we do it to see what actually nourishes and supports us rather than reinforcing what sabotages and limits us within our conditioning. 

As more and more people do yoga, there is a huge increase in yoga injuries.  We are talking about serious injuries that require hospitalization like herniated disks, hip and knee replacements. When you are a teacher (as there are many of them out there these days) there is an extra pressure as a guide and leader to look good and do things well so there is more unconscious behavior to push and challenge more.  Most injuries in yoga are what we call repetitive stress which come from small aches or twinges but when repeated not once or twice but ten or twenty times, the body eventually gives way because of bad body mechanics. Yoga puts the body in intense situations, complicated movements and when these mechanics are done over time in the wrong way, than we may be doing more damage than good.  So when we are doing yoga, its really important to look at what we are doing, why we are doing it, and lastly, how are doing it in regards to doing asana.

 

Part of our modern language and how society operates are cultures of what we call exploitation.  On a global level we navigate our resources in taking away without the regard to whether its sustainable to us or not.  I want this, I want that and then we take it.  We don’t consider the road down the line as we simply take as much as we can.  This is a crisis in that most of us are living in the world like this.  In a limited amount of time we are going to drastically change how we live and we have a natural and cultural tendency to do the same thing to our bodies especially when it comes down to yoga movements and yoga practices.  With everyone connected to Instagram these days, we see pictures of all these ultra flexible people performing these crazy poses that look like circus contortionists. In the background of our mind we are trying to do these same things on our yoga mat and because of this there is a bias that this is what yoga is! 

 

The reality is most people say they are to inflexible to do yoga, that they are too stiff. On one level Its like saying ‘oh I’m not going to take a bath because I am too dirty’.  In actuality the ones who have limitations are the ones who should be doing the most amount of yoga to at least create some balance and freedom. The emphasis should not be on being more flexible, a stretching war; but should be on having a little more space inside the body to at least sit comfortably for a period of some time – which is ultimately the goal of yoga. Our modern culture of looking outside does not bring more balance or stability.  That just because one day you will have a flexible body, doesn’t mean that you will be enlightened – like a buddha mind.  Now, just for a second – think how those two things could ever be possibly connected or related in any sense? If every body was flexible than wouldn’t that mean they are happy – they are the enlightened ones?  Im sure all of them will quickly tell you its not true.

The realistic goal of yoga is to stretch our mind so that it becomes more flexible.  Lets take an intense form of yoga called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  In this case, we practice difficult postures which test the mind to see how relaxed and calm it can be when for example tight situations in life arise.  This is what we are practicing for and is a more valuable tool than being able to put one foot behind the head or going up and down from a backbend.  Yoga is essentially a hygiene practice where we learn to take care of ourselves. It is a practice and a routine for oneself to take care of the mind and body.  Yet this is also another bias in that people see yoga as an all in one practice – a work out for the body to make it stronger where there is too much emphasis on pushing the body through a crazy amount effort and expectation to try and get it to look like something. In reality we have this love hate relationship with our body which is essentially an invisible part of ourselves that is telling us that if we can do this and when we do that, we will feel better and I will love myself. The invitation is to really look at what feeds our mind to go there so that our yoga practice goes beyond what is seen on the physical level.  If you understand that the mind can be the best tool to keep you unhappy, than maybe you will not fall into unhealthy conditioning of what the mind does best. Your mind doesn’t have a problem, but from the perspective of yoga – your mind is the problem.  It is the belief of these conditionings that stop us from being happy in the now.