Last week's blog post about headstand seems to have ruffled a few feathers. That wasn't my intention, but if we all start thinking a bit more about why we do what we do, that can only be a good thing.
Because, you see, we get the most benefit from the simplest things in yoga.
Moving with our breath.
Leslie Kaminoff says something similar quite regularly and I'm glad because it means our teacher trainees hear it over and over from me and Karen AND in their anatomy training. To paraphrase the great yoga teacher TKV Desikachar, the breath is the intelligence of the body. This is true: your breath influences your endocrine and nervous systems as much as they influence your breath. But you have some ability to regulate your breath and therefore to regulate your responses to the world and bring yourself back into clarity in the present moment.
This is what I am referring to when I say:
Yoga is both an action and a state of being.
In the yoga tradition I've mostly studied in, we talk about sahaj samadhi, the union that already exists. We are in union with that which moves us because we are alive, because we breathe. We can't possibly be separate from it. If we were, we would be dead. So that's the state of yoga. The practices of yoga are designed to remind us of this and help us have awareness of it.
There are many types of yoga, many traditions, and many practices designed to reach the state of samadhi or yoga - union, oneness. I'm just exploring this one from my context. Moving and breathing.
Why move, you ask, when you are trying to experience the stillness within?
Well, we all sit on our asses too much, and that leads to creaky bodies and disrupted breathing patterns. So moving and breathing brings us back into our bodies and reminds us of the body-breath-soul link that is always there but is sometimes hard to experience.
If moving isn't a possibility right now (although I'm sure you can do a stretch or two in the interests of good biomechanics) just being aware of our breath makes most of us feel better.
Try and see - be aware of your breath right now, and relax any tension you find in your jaw, neck and shoulders. Now a few deep breaths, slowly in, slowly out.
It's an ace way to bring mindfulness practice into your daily life:
Set an alarm for once every hour, or three times a day, or whatever, and BREATHE when it beeps.
Yoga is both the actions of asana, breathing and so on, and the experience of just being alive and connected with the world. It's that - the simple action of breathing with awareness, and maybe adding movement - that gives people the glow at the end of yoga class. That glow, I see it even when the class hasn't been a sweaty one.
Breath high maybe we can call it.
The other bits of yoga - the headstands and handstands and fun sweaty things - might be enjoyable and useful too, but that breath-mind-movement connection is the gold.