Yoga is a practice that helps us to reconnect with our true nature, to remember the joy and light and beauty that we all possess. Yes, even YOU. The physical part of the practice uses the body, the breath and movement as a means to help us shift our internal experience of the world and ourselves for the better.
Generally speaking, movement for the sheer joy of it can facilitate our reconnection with abundant inner freedom. Somehow, along life’s journey, we gather “stuff” that clouds our ability to connect with our internal light and liberty.
In his book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, Stephen Cope says:
In the yogic view, the energy of trauma, of contraction, of resistance to life, of holding on, is understood to penetrate deeper than the neuromuscular systems… it penetrates into the subtle energy body, the pranamayakosha, where it is finally held… These unconsciously held energy knots are called samskara.
We all carry our history with us in our physical bodies, minds and even at the deepest energetic level of our spirits. In order to shift these deep holding patterns, we must move the body and the energy in the body. When we practice yoga asana, some of our samskaras gradually begin to dissolve or transform. The fantastic thing about yoga asana is all we need to do is stay present and breathe. This incredibly sophisticated, yet simple, practice will do the rest.
One thing I’ve noticed however is that sometimes we can make our yoga extremely intellectual in the pursuit of the perfect alignment or technique. I am as guilty as anyone of using my head to try to get to places that only my heart or my spirit can take me. Sometimes it’s just easier to default to thinking hard about the physical practice than to fully go into the primal, revitalising understanding it affords. Freedom can feel like a scary thing if you’ve spent your whole life bound by your ideas and holding patterns. But a whole new level of the utter richness of yoga can be found past the ideas about it. The richness comes from the experience of it. And sometimes, you have to get out of your head to appreciate yoga fully.
I spent years working in the corporate world, spending all day using my head and then “unwinding” in the evening by doing a very intelligent workout at the gym. By Friday, I was invariably stiff, sore and cranky. Friday night was always dancing night though and by Saturday morning, my body felt pain free and my spirit felt cleansed. I hadn’t thought at all about how I should dance or what the benefits were, I simply moved the way that my body wanted to move in response to the music. It was utterly healing and rejuvenating!
When I started the practice of yoga, after relaxation pose, I would end up feeling a similar way – comfortable in my body and free in my mind. Putting myself into healing postures and relishing the joy of it had profoundly healing and transformative effects on my entire being. Somewhere along the way though, I got caught up in gathering knowledge about the practice and for a little while, I ended up overriding my enjoyment of it. Surprise, surprise, I ended up injured and practice began to feel like a chore, rather than like a gift.
It wasn’t until I rediscovered the sheer joy of moving my body the way it loves to be moved that I began to feel free again. These days, when I start to feel sore or like I’m heading towards injury, it’s a sure sign to me that I’ve gone too far into my head and I’m missing out on all of the best bits of yoga. At those times, I put on some music and flow through a practice, honouring how my body feels and not thinking about how I “should” perform the postures. Invariably, I am fortunate enough to have a life-affirming intuitive remembrance of why it’s great to be me, in this body, at this time and away from all my ideas about myself or the world. I simply feel good because I’ve shifted something at a deep energetic level using tools I can only access if I allow myself to be unbound by my mind.
So I invite you to go into your next practice or your next class with us with an open heart and mind and allow your body to move in the way that it feels good to move. Injury and pain from a yoga practice only happen when we dishonour our intuitive knowing and when we impose our will onto the body or allow someone else to impose theirs. While it’s wonderful to use your intelligence as you practice yoga, it’s even better to balance the use of that intelligence with a deep connection to the wisdom of your body and your soul. Your entire being will thank you for it!