Think about this for a moment: What brought you to yoga? What was your reason for rolling out a mat for that very first time? Maybe that first time was just last week, maybe last year, maybe a lifetime or two ago. Mull it over, formulate your reason, and then read on...
Many of us have a specific reason for starting yoga. That reason is always deeply personal and often times very practical. We may start to build strength and flexibility in our physical body, or to mitigate the effect of injury or of chronic pain. We may be looking for a practice to help reduce the physical, mental or emotional stresses we find ourselves caught up in. Or we may be going through a period of turbulence in our lives; in our intimate relationships, friendships or work. Whatever our reason is and however divergent it may seem, we share a common purpose. We come to yoga to effectuate some sort of change or realignment.
We practise yoga to bring us into some sort of realignment. A realignment within ourselves or in our relationships with others and the world around us.
As we continue to practise and our practice starts to bear fruit, we experience this realignment from different perspectives. It may be that the first thing we notice is that full body sense of ease as we lie in relaxation at the end of class. Or that the niggling pain we felt in our lower back when sitting at our desk at work or when driving in the car is no longer present. We may notice that we have grown in our ability to stay centered during those difficult situations at work and in our relationships. We simply - and often pretty quickly - begin to feel a little better about ourselves. Feeling is an energetic experience, so this feeling that we experience - whether consciously or at some deeper intuitive and non-verbal level - is a sign that this realignment is playing out at the level of our energetic being.
You, me and everything around us are made of and manifest from a mysterious field of energy. The change we feel through our practice is ultimately an energetic realignment.
Breath and feelings
So our common purpose becomes a little more specific: we come to yoga to effectuate some sort of energetic realignment. This energetic realignment initiates within us, impacts us in many ways, and ripples out into the world around us. And when our purpose plays out at this level it follows that our primary focuses as we practise on the mat are energetic: our relationship with breath and the feelings that arise from what is happening in our being. This is why good teachers through the ages put so much emphasis on instruction on breath and the inquiry into “how does what is happening in your body right now feel for you?”
Whatever form of yoga we practise, our primary tool is our relationship with breath and our guide is the feelings that arise in our mind-body system.
Expand beyond the container
These two focuses and the accompanying instructions transcend the specifics of form and ultimately are much more valuable than any instruction around physical technique. Which is not to say form and technique do not have value. They do - they give us a container in which to practise, a mechanism to explore and experience in a way that is safe, full of learning and often fun. However at some point we are invited to expand beyond the container and make our practice our own. A practice where we engage with breath and feel the energy of life as it unfolds in each moment on and off our mats. We each take this invitation in our own time and the time to start to engage with this invitation is always now.
A practice where we engage with breath and feel the energy of life as it unfolds in each moment on and off our mats.
Our common purpose comes with a common challenge. A challenge which means embracing and aligning two things that may at first seem a little contradictory: all is perfect as it is and yet we are dedicated to our practice to bring the fruits of change. Rising to this challenge opens us to the promise of yoga - an ever unfolding and authentic way of living our lives. A way of living that is grounded in an ongoing-refined alignment with our natural state of being and with the world around us.
Remember why you practice yoga
This class reminds you why you do yoga. To feel better yourself, but also to be the best person you can be, for the people around you...(Esther Ekhart/ Hatha / Slow Flow / Level 2)
If you're interested in this inner approach to yoga and how this empowers us on and off our mats, check out David's book Radically Simple Yoga: For Now - an accessible guide to the philosophy and practice of yoga.