What brings you to your yoga mat? Generate happiness? Improve health? Reduce stress? Look better naked? How about… Reconnect with your soul? Liberate your consciousness?
2017 is off to an unpredictable start for me. Things are not happening as planned and the pressure of responsibility is intense… and my yoga practice brings me focus, perspective, and ease. These are great things AND it is not the aim of yoga.
The practice of yoga, or SCIENCE or yoga as BKS Iyengar would say, is to liberate the soul by integrating the consciousness, mind, and body. Everything else is a side effect. Yogah citta-vritta-nirodah or Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind (Yoga Sutras I.2). Yoga is not for creating fitness, wellness, happiness, etc… though those are nice bonus benefits.
In Tree of Yoga, Iyengar compares the science (system) of yoga to a factory. The eight limbs of yoga are the various components of the factory system to create liberation. Sometimes factories are designed to make one product but produce other by-products along the way. In time, the by-products can take on increasing importance until the original intent is lost.
As in business as in life. I find the same to be true of my yoga practice, I get so focused on an intention… creating ease, creating space, and I lose the big picture – reconnect to the Self and my highest purpose. This isn’t bad, it’s part of being human and requires a shift in perspective.
The limbs of yoga we practice most in the West – asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath work) are part of the overall science of yoga and they create many salubrious side effects. (vocab lesson of the day: salubrious = healthful). And I am committed to reminding myself of the bigger picture, the broader path, the ultimate goal.
As I bring this thinking off my mat and back into my life, I’m committed to looking for where by-products and side effects are unintentionally taking precedence over the original aim. Specifically, to look at successes and set-backs in the broader context of what I want to create and liberate.
What do you want to create? What can you liberate?