Friday, June 15, 2012

Do Yoga, Do More

What is yoga?  There's a dynamic definition if ever there was one.  There is such an incredible variety out there of 'yoga classes', from the 'authentic', to the 'pandering to the western mind.'  Oh yeah.  I'll be using a lot of quotation marks today.

What makes us think Mysore Ashtanga is more authentic than Tara Stile's strolex stuff?  Yoga has been evolving for millenia, and yes, importing it to America did seem to hit the fast foward button, which is really freaky for those just getting into yoga's illustrious history, but I'm not a fan of drawing a line in the sand and telling someone else what they're doing is not yoga.

For me, it's more fair to say that someone is not doing ALL of yoga.  They may just be doing the parts of yoga that work for them.  If you'd rather spend hours doing asanas to look banging in a bikini instead of to allow you to sit comfortably in a cross-legged position for hours at a stretch, that's alright, but you are absolutely eschewing what is, arguably, yoga's heart and soul. 

Because, that's the thing: poses, breathing, chanting...these are all means to an end.  The real, nuts-and-bolts practice is meditation.  And meditation might mean sitting still in a cross-legged position for hours on end, but then again it might not.  It might mean inhaling the changing fragrances of the seasons as you walk your dog on a well-worn path through your neighborhood park.  it might mean feeling the texture of every dish and utensil you've eaten off of that day as you wash the dishes in hot, sudsy water.  It might mean breathing through the ache you're putting into your back by bending over a table to wile away another hour working on a large-scale intuitive drawing.

The key to meditation is not sitting, is not being silent, is not keeping yourself from thinking, God[dess] forbid, it is choosing to do one thing at a time: to be in one place at a time, both mentally and physically.

Moment of clarity coming...NOW!  Yes, we in America don't like to sign up for that game too much.  We are a nation of multi-taskers (says the yogini cooking breakfast and updating her blog at the same time).  We feel so good about ourselves, so exhilarated, when we're juggling several tasks simultaneously.  When I have a day I can label as 'productive', it's almost a high.  It feels amazing.

And I think this cultural truth is why we love our yoga along the lines of the strolex brand: Get stronger, leaner, more flexible, AND de-stress, all in one hour, for fifteen bucks!  All you need to add is a 'But wait, there's more!' (Feel elitist around your friends!).  We want more for our time-investment than a teeny-tiny step on a life-long road toward inner peace and true happiness.  We want something more in line with our cultural values, like, um, looking hot and eternally youthful.

So, the yogis who have been with the practice a while, who have given the meditation thing a shot, who have an inkling of all that yoga can be, and do for a person, shake their heads, and click their tongues, and roll their eyes at anyone who signs up for a power-hot-sweat-whatever yoga class.  Well, some of them do, and you can't really blame them.  It's frustrating watching this whole, complex practice be reduced to a perky girl in tight pants at the front of the room encouraging you to tighten your glutes.  But the promblem isn't the perky girl, or the glutes.  Those things are a part of the whole yoga phenomenon.

What I, and many many other yogis invite you to do though, is step outside that box.  Brave everything else yoga has to offer.  Give it a shot, take that first step.  Dare to have an objective moralality!  Dare to do one thing, or nothing, at one time.  Dare to get to know yourself.

Because a funny thing happens when you do.  You might find your yoga blog isn't so much about the alignment of shapes on a mat anymore.  You might find that striking poses in public doesn't seem scary, or embarrassing.  You might catch yourself chanting 'Om' in a moment of fear or anxiety, or stranger yet, maintaining a sense of calm self-possession, and compassion in the face of another's anger.

Yoga isn't a magic cure-all with no risk of injury.  But it does have the power to transform.  What is yoga?  It's the science of happiness.  And what more useful science is there for humanity?  Get strong, get flexible, get sexy, if that's what does it for you.  But then,

get more.

Live Omily,

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