Two Things a Yoga Practice Will NOT Do:
1. Make you into someone else
We all have people we admire. From the famous gurus to friends and family. However much we admire someone, we need to be ourselves.
2. Take away all your emotions
We can have this mental image of a yoga practitioner who is blissed out. Muted in their emotional expression. Never angry. Never upset. Perhaps always speaking with a calm, low, modulated voice.
Yoga can help us clear out the mental debris, inertia, fog. It can help us question our thoughts and assumptions. However, there is a pitfall in pretending that we don’t have emotions that we deem unacceptable. We are missing out when we do this. Being triggered with strong emotions can be an opportunity for healing, for inquiry and for growth.
Try not fighting emotions. Soften into them. Ask what it is that you should learn. What stories need to be unwoven and released.
Two Things a Yoga Practice WILL Do:
1. Give you tools
“The stress that saturates the brain is decreased through asana and pranayama, so the brain is rested, and there is a release from strain.” B.K.S. Iyengar from Light on Life
When we usually think of yoga, we think of the poses on the mat. Maybe some breathwork and perhaps some meditation. I went to Kripalu and listened to a talk on one of the main texts of yoga - the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The teacher talked about how much the practice of yoga has changed and how that is not necessarily a bad thing. He talked about how sedentary our lives in the West have become and how much we need the physical practice - for health, to feel our bodies, to heal.
He did, however, offer a caveat to the benefits of the physical practice. He said that when we practice asana (physical poses) and gain a little bit of energy from it, we should put that added energy into our pranayama and meditation practice.
2. For your life
A full yoga practice becomes a practice for your life. As my teacher once told me when I asked her about her personal practice, “I’m practicing all the time.”
The physical practice helps you stay or get strong. It can help you as you get older. A teacher used to say that she practices yoga so that she can tie her own shoes. When you are ready for it, the breathwork can help you move towards deeper states of calm, energy, vibrancy. And, again, when you are ready for it, meditation can help you go deeper still.
These three aspects of practice - poses, breathing and meditation - are fairly well known. I would like to back up and say that the bedrock of a yoga practice is the Yamas and the Niyamas. Look them up! I will go deeper into them in another post. They are yoga’s ethical and moral codes. They include kindness and honesty.
“Remember, Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities. We all have that strength, but we don’t seem to know it. We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities.” Swami Satchidananda