Why Are We Doing This?
Why do you practice Yoga? Is it for fitness, relaxation? Is it because your friends do it? Yoga is not something that we do in order to get something nor is it a fad to be attempted and abandoned when something new comes along. It is a practice for life. If you've been practicing and haven't noticed any changes beyond the physical, perhaps it's time to find a teacher who offers more than postural instruction.
Yoga is an ancient practice and science. What was discovered long ago by the ancient yogis was that there was more to life than what they could see. With each new level of consciousness reached, they sought more, they reached further. Today, may of us begin the practice with the physical (Hatha). To do Yoga we must apply the system of practices in a way that improves us beyond the physical. We must seek that which lies beyond what we can see.
My teacher and I were speaking about the dilution of Yoga that has occurred over the past decade or so. She said to me, "Imagine someone deciding to go to school to be a chef. On the first day, the teacher tells them to get out a knife and cutting board, eat a hot pepper and then go take a nap. This is what is happening in many Yoga classes: the instructor has been told that there are things we do in the practice, but they are not taught why, how or when they should be done."
I couldn't agree more. With few exceptions, every class I have recently attended has included aspects of the practice applied inaccurately or in incorrect sequence. It felt just as my teacher had described: like I'd eaten a hot pepper and tried to go take a nap.
The practice of Yoga is complete; it addresses body, breath, energy, emotion and thought. Through fitness, we find strength and balance in our bodies which moves us beyond our limits; beyond our fears. Pranayama (directed breathing techniques) connect body, energy, emotions and thoughts. Through mindfulness practices we find an inner calm that we can draw upon even in the most stressful of situations. These practices develop individual awareness and connections with others. They help us to discover the bonds between all things in the universe.
In the ancient texts these practices are outlined specifically. They are described and prescribed specifically. The names, techniques as well as time and place are included. To ignore these explanations is to ignore the practice of Yoga.
Ask yourself "why?" Why are we doing this breathing practice? Why are we holding this mudra? Why does this sequence of postures include crow? If you don't know the answers ask your instructor or teacher. If they don't know the answers, then it's time to find someone who does.
Seek more than what you expect, more than what want. Dedicate yourself more fully to the practice and be open to the experiences that arrive on your path. Include the practices of Yoga in your life and your life is bound to change.
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