Yoga is the “isness business”. It is a collection of tools and techniques to help you see yourself as you are, and the world – “as it is”.
There are other methods and techniques that can help you do this. Infact, everything has the potential to do this. As a very english yogi, I tend to default to yoga as the set of practices that can help. But I fully appreciate that yoga is just an option for anyone else. I carefully triangulate between stoicism and buddhist practices with my yoga because I find these a powerful mix. There are many paths to understanding. I just find yoga practice an incredibly helpful, although challenging set of practices.
When I say that “everything” has the potential to help you see yourself as you are, and the world as it is, I do mean everything. You could immerse yourself in gardening, knitting, or running. You might love walking in nature, be an outdoor swimmer or a paraglider. You might love film or music. You might love people. Art could be your thing. You might be a foodie, or love drinking or simply vegging out on the sofa watching TV even. These are all possible routes to self-realisation and seeing things clearly and as they really are. I hear you cry – “really? watching TV?” but I do believe that anything in our reality is potentially a possible route to self realisation and seeing the world as it is. So – yes. And yet we find that we live in a sensual world where we are easily tricked and fooled into the miasma of the thing that we are doing. And suddenly, we find ourselves ensnared and caught in the web of the moment of that thing. So everything comes with a caveat: be aware and wary.
We find that when we immerse ourselves in our “thing” we enter into a state of flow, or what the yogis would call meditation, or one of her sisters – concentration, reflection, relaxation. From there, we can begin to cut through the wild cowboy posse of our habits, conditioning, baggage and biases. Once we are there we can begin to see ourselves and the world more clearly. It is, or it can be a long, slow process. And that’s the thing. Yoga practices seem to be the quickest and most effective way of doing this – cutting through all of that baggage quickly, and often with less pain than other methods. Any other route has this potential but it’s easy to find that you are simply perpetuating your habits, biases, conditioning etc when you are doing these other things. Our baggage has a power that is undoubtedly and significantly embedded in us. But you see, with yoga there is a range of practices that have been developed over a few thousand years or so, that help to cut through all of that baggage. Many people find that they have done this without even knowing. It’s as if the work of yoga somehow acts as a baggage handler. The process is quite amazing. It’s a 2,000 year old technology that seems to work. Them Yogis were on to a good thing. Yoga posture – asana – is the starting point for many. Pranayama – breathing techniques then follow. And from there, we find that we are able to move into more relaxing, reflective and then perhaps meditative states simply as a result of our efforts through yoga posture on our bodies and breathing.
Why would anyone want to see themselves, or indeed the world more objectively, or more clearly?
This is a good question. You could simply continue as you are and that would be fine. But it is possible that at some point you may feel unhappy or alienated from yourself. Our culture talks about “mid life crises” and to be sure it is often the case that we reach a certain age and question everything we think and do, or have done. Personal crises, and traumas can be a catalyst for self realisation and growth. It may well be that once we have drowned ourself in sorrow, or self medicated ourselves from the pain or frustration of life, there is an opportunity to begin to recover and explore the eternal questions: who am I, why is the world like it is and how can I be fulfilled? Clearing the decks of past baggage can help give us the space to recover and do the heavy work of evolving. But tackling the stuff that we call baggage can be hard. So starting with our physical practice of yoga postures, and breathing is an easy and accessible way of beginning this.
Funnily enough, we don’t have to practice yoga for very long before we start experiencing its benefits. They key is a regular and consistent practice rather than worrying out a long duration of practice. One of the most intriguing possibilities is to explore a gentle practice derived from surya namaskar (sun salutation). You can find many versions on the net. Here’s one from the Yoga Journal. Going to a yoga class, or seeing a yoga teacher for some tuition is a good way of developing and progressing a personal practice. The key is to gentle move with breath, and awareness.
It won’t be long until you find that Yoga is the isness business. Good luck!