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“We use the postures to get to know our body, not use the body to perform postures.” - Sarah Powers, Insight Yoga Training, August 2012
Let me first just say that this is probably not a precise quote, but definitely very close to how Sarah introduced our first session on Yin Yoga today. I’m sending updates from a training program I’m attending at Kripalu Center because I wanted to create a framework for thinking about what I’m learning each day. Often when I attend these yoga intensives, I cram as much as I can into a little notebook hoping that one day I’ll review it. But mostly I end up just trusting that the essence will bubble up in my classes. And actually it does.
This is a more concerted effort to process, in real time, what I’m learning. I’m glad that I decided to do this because not a single word of what Sarah says is extraneous. I can’t possible write fast enough to capture her teachings. It is, at times, frustrating. I don’t want to miss anything or forget anything. So, I’m sharing in order to process and dial it in.
Back to the quote…
Even before this program, I have been spending a lot of time contemplating just exactly what we’re supposed to be getting out of asana (posture) practice anyway. On the one hand, it’s a no brainer because our practice feels good and sets us up for a healthier lifestyle. Quite a lot of health consciousness begins with that first child’s pose. Since I began practicing yoga, many aspects of my life are fundamentally different for the better.
But along with this emphasis on the postures comes this near obsession with the right way to do postures. Am I doing this right? Why don’t I look like that woman in this posture? She’s obviously a better yogi than me. My teacher isn’t going to like me because I can’t do this posture.” Etc. Etc. Etc. This isn’t yoga, and it certainly isn’t healthy.
It’s important to remind ourselves that our asana practice is not about marking off a checklist of how many poses we can do or even how precisely we do them (I believe there’s a reasonable amount of latitude for safety in most poses). Asana practice is an environment for self-inquiry and reflection by way of the physical sensation. Through asana practice, we initiate a process for knowing ourselves more intimately. Asana is not the end game.
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“Why? Simple. Because you are human. Just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life that simply will not go away.”
~ Bhante Gunaratana, from “Mindfulness in Plain English.”
In the same way that yoga asanas tone and purify the body, meditation cleanses the mind. Meditation helps us to penetrate our habits of grasping, rejecting and ignoring, in order to reveal a completely different way of regarding and responding to the world around us. Meditation helps free us from continually chasing after fleeting pleasures or running away from hardship. We train ourselves to be steadfast and calm, to ride the waves as they come.
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