Not knowing

Not knowing is alien to modern western minds. In general we are not very comfortable with not knowing. We like to know and we quickly snap to answers and beliefs.

child pose

Whilst at times this can be useful, it can also get us into a lot of problems. Knowing is often quickly followed by judgement – judgements about ourselves, about others, about the world around us. 

Yoga grows our knowing & our not knowing…

When we practise yoga we practise stepping back and observing ourselves. We study ourselves in all sorts of ways, from the very tangible to the intangible. We observe our physical bodies as we practise; we observe the sensations that arise – sensations of joy and discomfort; we observe what is going on in our heads; we observe how we are in each moment energetically and so on. And as we study we grow our wisdom about ourselves, we grow our knowing. This growing our knowing is the easy part for many, we feel comfortable with knowing more. 

Yoga not only grows our sense of not knowing; more importantly it grows our ability to be at ease with not knowing.

Our yoga in a very real way also grows our not knowing. Again this plays out from the very tangible to the intangible: we may not know what type of practice is best for us at a given moment; we may not know what is the “right” alignment for our body in a certain posture; we may not know what sort of feeling is arising in a certain part of our body; or we may simply not know who we are. For many of us this is the not-so-easy part, we feel uncomfortable with not knowing. Luckily our yoga practice teaches us that this is okay… 

Before we practised yoga we thought we knew what yoga was and now we practise, the whole thing is thrown wide open!

Yoga opens our eyes…

For many of us our eyes are opened to not knowing pretty soon after we take up the practise of yoga. We often start practicing yoga for a specific reason – to build strength or to relax – and whatever our reason, many of us see things about ourselves that we had not seen, or known, before. We experience that by taking up the practice of yoga we have stepped into something much bigger and more mysterious than we thought we had when we started out. And we start to question or doubt what the practice of yoga actually is. 

Yoga is non-dogmatic…

Then just when we have started to get a little confused about ourselves and about the practice of yoga, we read – or someone tells us – that ‘yoga is non-dogmatic’. This is usually elaborated on in one of two ways. Firstly, that we can continue to hold any beliefs about ourselves or the world and still practise yoga. Or secondly, that we do not have to buy into any beliefs to practise yoga. We don’t have to believe that we have a soul or a true self and we don’t have to believe that we have seven chakras or energy centers in our body. Now whilst both of these are valid, the ‘non-dogmatic’ aspect of our practice goes a little further…

When we practise yoga we roll out our mats and we set aside all beliefs about ourselves and the world for the duration of our practice.

This means that when we practise we very literally step into the unknown, into not knowing, and we step back, observe and allow the space for something new to unfold. 

Waking up to mystery…

The process we go through when we practise yoga is, in essence, waking up – waking up to what is real and what we can know, and waking up to the unknowable. Through the repetition of practise we become more comfortable with not knowing and we shift from clinging to the known to embracing the mystery of self and of life. As we do this we become softer towards ourselves, to others and to the world at large, we become less judgemental and more open in our relationships. And this openness is one of the golden gifts of yoga.

Ekhart Yoga members:

For a more detailed exploration of the above you can watch my recent video for EkhartYoga Not Knowing. In this video I expand on the above and explore how our yoga does its work in this respect.

For a playfully irregular dose of yoga philosophy you can follow me on Twitter: @DDodd108

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EkhartYoga Written by one of the EkhartYoga staff or guest writers. A dedicated team of yoga teachers, yoga students, anatomy geeks, and recipe creators.