When your yoga is not asana

A quick note about ‘yoga’. There is the linguistic definition, translated from the ancient Sanskrit language of India. That can mean ‘union’, or ‘yoke’ as in the union of the seer and seen (whether in Spiritual or even physical sense, the dualities of the world in which we live). But then there is the Ashtanga 8 limbed path of yoga, which I studied fundamentally at teacher training in Spain with Frog Lotus Yoga International. This opened up questioning what yoga is to most westerners who practice yoga. For me, it was mostly about asana, (physical postures) which is only 1/8 of this traditional Ashtanga path. I would occasionally feel something deeper as I connected inward and tuned the outside world, well out… but mostly it was about centering myself mentally so as to do the physical demands of yoga better and better (competing with myself to improve, and on occasion although I disdain to admit it – competing with fellow students albeit by NOT keeping eyes on my own mat).

1. Yama – restraints (universal morality)

2. Niyama –  personal observances

3. Asana – physical posture

4. Pranayama – extension of breath (life force energy)

5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses

6. Dharana – concentration

7. Dhiyana – meditation

8. Samadhi – enlightenment

This perhaps used to be a step-by step guide toward obtaining the ultimate goal of yoga… the cessation of the separation of “I” and “Other”. Don’t most of us struggle when we feel alienated?

Well I have spent the past week battling with space constraints, cold weather, and not wanting to suffer from an anticlimactic lack of motivation after being so gung-ho in the yoga teacher training. At the moment, we are trying to find a new place to live as well and not having a car – getting around a still new town has its difficulties. Needless to say, getting back into the groove of physical asana practice has not been possible but I’m starting to miss it deeply. Yet it has given me opportunity to reflect on the fact that, actually, your yoga is not asana in itself. When there is no asana, there are still 7 other limbs in the yoga tree to climb and endeavor.

Google lead me to a simple homepage that explains the limbs succinctly for someone wishing to wet their whistle with knowledge. The author, says of one ancient yoga text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, that it “describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoying lasting peace.” I know many a modern person, yogi or not, who would do well to learn to harness the endless chatter in the mind (which is your ego!) and enjoy some peace of mind.

So when my yoga, or your yoga, is not physical, let it be something else, take your pic of the 7 other limbs, work on one, or let it work on you, if you’re open. Be open! I’ll leave you with a screen shot from B.K.S. Iyengar’s homepage and a quotation that is the current as of this posting image that greets seekers. We all in us have different hats to don, different roles to embody, and should be fully willing to embrace what they [we] are.


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