An ancient discipline dating back more than eight thousand years, Yoga must have something of phenomenal value to have not only survived all this time but seen an incredibly popular and upward swing in the 21st century. The benefits of Yoga are well documented and extensively so. In recent years I have begun to look at the practice of yoga from some slightly different perspectives and have found it only makes yoga so much more exciting.
From Stretch to Stability
Here are some different angles that would be worth exploring in the practice of yoga: Yoga provides the realization that we don’t know and affords an opportunity to explore what we don’t know! It sounds so simple yet it is so interestingly challenging! The human psyche is very comfortable with well-established labels. Even a little crinkling of the label can cause discomfort. So, inadvertently and unconsciously it seeks to indulge itself in action that will only reinforce what it is familiar and comfortable with and not allow itself to test unchartered waters. Therefore, if we knew how much we could stretch the angle of our body or twist the length of the spine or hold a position, that alone would give us enormous joy and help us ensconce ourselves in a state of complacency. Consequently, while we will, of an absolute certainty, grow in a huge way, the growth will not be in leaps and bounds that we would experience if we approached the practice of yoga from a space of an ignorance of our capabilities. There would then be an experience of “free-floating”, an effortlessness that opens up the infinite possibilities within.
Surrender to Nature
This is very similar to my paragliding experience. The first time I took off, I didn’t know that I had to race off the edge of the mountain or that I would actually be walking on thin air for a few moments before I was going to be helped by the thermal currents or that landing would require a skill that I never thought I possessed! If I had known, I probably would never have ventured into the sport and experienced the profound freedom of flying with the eagles. Yoga is so much like paragliding. There is a certain surrender to nature but with an easy alertness.
The progression of an almost robotic movement of the body in assuming a position to a fluid and languid set of exciting movements will take the practice of yoga to a completely different experiential level. There is an in-built rhythm within us. Any action that violates that intrinsic rhythm cannot be joyous.
Approaching yoga as a set of exciting movements will let us drop the use of intellect in the practice of yoga and help us sync with our innate natural cadence. It is this syncing that is the very core of all definitions of yoga. Yoga scholars over the centuries have spoken of the “union” that is achieved through yoga.
When the body moves fluidly through a surreal connection of imaginary dots to create a picture of what already exists within, there is no scope for contradictions or duality. That is the union achieved through the perfect syncing of the outer movements of the body with the inner self. The mystery of the body and the power of the mind then unfold, unlocking a burst of inner radiance.
It’s an unparalleled feeling of freedom. It gives freedom, in the truest sense of the word, to compete with our selves and that too ever so naturally. Yoga is, indeed, nature’s gift to align our selves with its expansiveness.
By Dr. Prema Seshadri
(Dr. Prema Seshadri is a novelist and an Art of Living faculty member. She teaches several Art of Living courses and approaches life with zest and passion.)