October 14, 2010
Bikram Yoga, Hatha, Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, yay, I’m doing Yoga! Are you, really? Do you have Yoga muscles? Besides seeking social validation from someone called a teacher who charges you money to be commanded into positions that sound like made-up animal names with action words in front of them like Sideways Rooster and Weeping Pigeon, you may feel relieved that someone with authority over you is encouraging you to fall asleep during the last five minutes so you can release all of your unspoken heartaches, one yoga class at a time.
People are moving in droves toward Yoga to round out their butts, tone their midsections, strengthen their arms and shoulders, and to become generally more flexible, or just to show off their gymnastics before they try to hook up with someone. Some people may think Yoga classes are just another kind of Spin or Pole Dancing class, and truthfully they are unless you take that inward journey with some kind of understanding of what it means to shed your identity and focus the mind beyond what we see as our physical surrounding reality. Not only will you be improving the outside, the gross matter, the physical body that you have through asana, but Yoga is a science that is both spiritual and biological, with movements and postures that benefit the internal organs and the systems of the body, the nervous, the circulatory, the lymphatic, the respiratory, to name a few, aligning your physical state to be more receptive to the creative energies that permeate all of us and everything that we call matter. So, if there is an imbalance in your internal systems somewhere, it can be manifesting in the outward physical from general unease to chronic pain, and toning what is perceived as the outward physical will also through asana restore more healthy internal systemic functions that may be lagging or restricted, opening energy pathways in the process.
There is yet an even more important target beyond this, but inclusive of this work. These are Yoga muscles, and if you don’t have them, you aren’t doing Yoga. You can be able to lift a car with your skeletal muscles but your Yoga muscles can be weak. In the practice of leading the body with the mind through the many prescribed physical movements and contortions that Yoga has to offer, you ready the mind for a state of withdrawal from the body, where you strengthen the finest matter that you are composed of. With all or some of the senses you command your body to move in ways that enliven the mind and give it immediate as well as long-term revelation of what it wants to experience: the opening of all possible channels between the senses and the perception of those senses by our minds, forming the experience that is rich and multi-dimensional until the mind has no choice but to require rest, solitude, and seek sanctuary where there is no longer this physical experience. Here you find your true nature and this is your Yoga muscle strength training, laying down flat on your back. This is Savasana, where you have to consciously let go of the body.
In this final and closing part of your Yoga practice, it is important to breathe deeply in and out in a smooth cycle and view the breath as the acceptance and release of the energies all around you. Of course you are relaxing from the stresses you just put your body through, but it is not a time for sleep or escape. When you open your eyes you should feel like you are reclaiming your physical body and your visual surroundings one piece at a time, having just returned from a transcendental journey. You don’t need Yoga to look great. But, if you haven’t experienced what it feels like to be one with every particle of the universe in the suspension of time across many lifetimes with the gentle whisper of the Supreme Intelligence coming from within you, you are probably doing something wrong.