Why do we ‘do’ yoga?
We want to learn how to slow down our breathing, we want to find a relief to the pain in our back, we would like more flexibility in our hamstrings, we would like less stress, more strength, some time to ourselves, because we have discovered that yoga is one of the most incredibly designed systems of movement there is..
Many, many reasons why we ‘do’ yoga. And for the beginners as well as to the most advanced student yoga will serve the purpose of practice. Yes, yoga helps you to relax, it helps you to become present in the Now, it helps you keep your organs in a healthy state, and so much more. Therefore, to me, every single reason to practice yoga is a good reason!
The funny thing is though, that we seem to experience our practice yoga as something separate from the rest of our lives. We ‘go to yoga’ once or twice a week and seem to forget about it again a few hours after class. Seems logical right? Cause its just another something we ‘do’.
However, after some time it might occur to us that the two, ‘yoga’ and ‘the rest of our life’, do not seem to exist separate from each other at all, that really.. they are one and the same. The things we learn on the mat are no different to the things we learn in life, the person we see when we step on the mat is no different to the person we see (or choose not to see) when we walk away from it.
Yes, our mat is a special place. It offers us a place to reflect on ourselves, to reflect on what we do, think, feel and are on that moment in time and space. The practice of yoga offers us a method to see ourselves in every posture we do, every breath we take – because there is no one else doing that posture on that mat, no-one else to blame. And to accept what we see. To learn and listen to what our body tells us, what kind of crazy thoughts we have and how we feel, at that moment and with regular practice – every time again. We slowly try to learn who we really are behind all those feelings, thoughts and actions and to transform to become this person – not just on the mat, but maybe even all the time.
The practice will learn us to recognize things that misdefine us. The emotions, bodily sensations, achievements and sensory perceptions that we have in daily life. It learns us to observe these physical and psychological states, observe them instead of being them. It learns us stop identifying with all these temporary and transient thoughts, feelings and sensations and to see who we are behind all of this.
And yes, this takes practice. Each and every one of us starts and moves at our own level and our own pace. There is NO such thing as right or wrong. There is no scale to how ‘spiritual’ you have to be to do yoga. If you come to alleviate back pain, than that is your start and its a good one. Because you chose yoga (or yoga chose you) and whether you like it or not, you will be confronted with yourself when you step onto that mat. Not just with your back pain, but with all the creations you’ve created around it.
Yoga means union in the broadest sense of the word and as I see it, it means union with the self. In Patanjali’s words:
Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhah
Yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind
Tada Drashtuh Svarupe Vasthanam
Then the true self appears
The union called yoga arrises when we seek and find our true selves. Enlightenment…? Maybe yes, maybe not just yet. As said before – all happens at our own pace. Yoga is a way, a process, just like life. And there is a lot of good to be found along the way. This union can happen at any moment in time, when you are ready and able. No one else’s path will chance the fact that you will walk your own.
So, to cut a long story short: with the ‘right’ intention, everything in our daily life becomes yoga – a way to find our true selves. A smile to a person walking by, the help we offer to another person, the peaceful way we respond to our loved one in an argument, the positive thoughts we think about ourselves, the way we lift a weight in the gym because we love our body – not because we hate it. As I read in someones story the other day: every action becomes an asana, every breath a pranayama and every quiet moment becomes meditation. And, whatever my humble position might be in this beautiful process of life and union, Im very very thankful that I might be able to help even only a little bit in yours. Thanks for reading.
“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.”
– Sharon Gannon