We are often fond of saying that yoga isn’t about asana and has little to do with being on the mat, but if that’s true, then what exactly are we doing? Certainly it’s fair to say that for most of us, that’s what it is. Some people even fear it because we have all been lead to believe we must be bendy and flexible in order to practise it.
The truth though, is that most of us are lifetimes away from “yoga”. Yoga is actually the “goal” (of sorts), so we just need to keep practising.. Will we ever reach yoga in this lifetime? Maybe, maybe not. But the point is to stay on the path regardless. Committing to a consistent program that includes physical asana, pranyama and meditation/relaxation gives us an opportunity to reflect and observe our body sensations rather than engage with the chitter chatter in our head for an hour or so.
We are not our thoughts, but they do consume us sometimes! So what sort of thoughts keep flying in while we are on our mat? What judgements do we find ourselves randomly making? How are we executing our postures – ie, from a place of joy, kindness, love and attention? Or do we find it hard to not be driven by ego? (“I want what she’s having!”). Are we often a little bit greedy; ie taking more from the “smorgasbord” than we can possibly digest?
Do WE even know who we are – or why?
And how does this compare with who we are off the mat? For example, are we stubborn and sometimes rigid or are we flexible and open enough to constantly challenge our deeply-held lifelong belief systems? Can we bend occasionally and go with the flow? Or do we often feel disappointed because stuff didn’t roll out the same way as the story did in our head? Do we feel grounded? Are we adaptable and strong enough to face life’s challenges head on? Or do we give up easily and/or habitually play the victim? Do we constantly clock-watch because we are always anxious about the next thing and essentially wishing our life away?
Consistent time on the mat then, gives us an opportunity to pay attention to the way our mind and body tends to respond to all that is offered during a “yoga” class practise. We can then consciously use these observations in our daily life to become aware of who we are and why – how we tend to react, how we see things… This can be a little like waking up and seeing all of our ingrained habitual and residual ways of being laid bare before us, and absolutely, along with the aha moments, it’s not always pleasant…!
Yoga being yoga though, nobody is perfect and neither are they expected to be. It’s simply a process. A perfect down dog or perfect handstand won’t change your life on a deep level. However, understanding that yoga is a lifelong practise that helps to focus the mind while encouraging a healthy sense of detachment from those incessant thoughts, means a yoga attitude absolutely will. . x