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Not Just Asana: How Yoga Helps Us Uncover the Truth
If you’ve been on the yoga block long enough, you’re probably all too aware of the debate within the yoga community as to what constitutes yoga, an ancient practice that is most commonly viewed as a series of shapes made by the body. Yoga is often viewed by its many styles, including Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Bikram, Iyengar, ad infinitum. But if yoga as a state means “wholeness,” so is skiing, running, dancing, sitting, swimming, walking, making love, but above all, simply being and knowing it.
Yoga is the quest for the truth of our being, an understanding of who we really are underneath the layers of conditioning (samskaras). This allows us to return to a place whereby the sense of “I am” is not limited by time and space, but is infinite and boundless. If yoga is viewed as only asana, this sounds like a tall order. Yet practicing asana in conjunction with pranayama, meditation, in inter/intra-relationship can create the conditions necessary to feel one’s inherent wholeness.
Yoga and Wholeness
To recognize wholeness does not negate the afflictions of life, though. “No man is an island” means every one of us is in constant diffusion with the known and unknown, shaping and being shaped by our inner/outer world.
Rather, wholeness is the understanding that nothing that “I” do can make me whole, as my core being is already complete. It is simply my conditioning that creates the illusion that “I” am not. The implication of accepting wholeness is then to implicitly realize that the attainment of material goods and abilities will never make us whole as we already are!
Irrespective of whether one can do Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose), run 60 kilometers, throw their leg behind their head, or slip seamlessly into splits will not add to the unchanging completeness of the inherent Self. What such endeavors can do is to break through conditioning that hitherto has increasingly masked our divinity by forging new pathways. Yet all these paths do not lead to Rome. It depends on the commitment to understanding our true Self, whereby we move closer to the truth of who we are with yoga, either expediting the journey or taking us on a detour.
If we’re becoming more compassionate and loving, with a passion for understanding oneself in our entirety, able to sit in a still centered place through good and not so good—which is by no means plain sailing—perhaps this is yoga, and it really does work. At this moment, I can’t ask more of myself or anybody else.
Reprinted with permission from this-yoga.com
Charlene McAuley - My yoga exploration spans 13 years, teaching for almost seven of those years with varied students including World Cup footballers and wise 80-year olds. I have an insatiable fascination with movement and psyche, recognizing many years ago through my yoga practice that movement can determine one’s mindset and mindset can determine one’s movement. I work primarily with the ‘here and now’, wanting to explore what is occurring in the present moment so that I can encourage myself and students to live with more awareness.