Yoga is a vast philosophy that goes way beyond the postures (poses), but asana (posture) are the most common place for yogi/nis to begin the practice. And they are genius portals or pathways to presence.
Distractions and the comfort of monotony lead us to a de-sensitised state where we become numb and unaware of who we really are. So many of us sleepwalk or dream our way through life. We're so numb to our emotions that we crave intensity through substance or sleep-induced states.
Yogic postures wake us up to presence, to consciousness as it is, in the moment, beneath the labels, conditioning and sense of what we should or could be. The physical shapes offer a process toward consciousness. They redirect our attention from the external distractions, from the ego-centred constructs of the mind, to the place of feeling with-in and with-out, from a non-analytical state, where labels or self-inflicted limitations melt away. We finally reconnect to what is felt, sensed or experienced in the moment of now.
Asana let us slowly settle into the space archaic. Into what lies beneath., to our truest heart-felt, embodied sense.
The edges of discomfort reveal our boundaries and teach us ways to navigate softening and staying open when faced with adversity. Breath fills the space and the place, so we learn how to calm when our nervous system is triggered toward sympathetic state of fight, flee or fawn, instead coaxing body and mind toward the parasympathetic state of rest and relaxation. Falling shows us how to pick ourselves up, or rebalance when life meanders toward uncertainty or painful situations show up. Inversions flip our perspective and place heart above head.
But above all (and more), they allow us to perceive the present moment. To observe how we are, who we are and where we are at. And to accept it all. They teach us to interpret our own unique language and textures of feeling. They change the scenery from sepia to full-spectrum colour.
Asanas teach us that pushing or over-striving only ever creates tension, that holding back prevents growth and that it doesn't matter what we do, so much as how we do.
The shapes of Yoga reveal the parts of ourselves we forgot. While we were busy do-ing, it's likely we forgot how to be.
This practice teaches us how to live in every moment, consciously aware of how we feel, act and react. To the onlooker, asana seem to be us adopting shapes of birds, trees, or fallen stars. But the truth is every single adjustment, each breath is shifting worlds within and teaching us to see the intricacy of who we are, to tune into every cell and breathe breath into the parts that became dark, heavy or lost. Yoga can become a life line; it's like the greatest teacher of all. Because it teaches us to return to self and trust our instinct, our breath and body, and to really begin to believe in self again.
It doesn't matter who we are or what we've experienced. There really is a form of Yoga for every one. And when you find the right recipe for you, it's like every breath becomes illumination and embrace.
Like all good things, what goes around, comes around, and when we pour energy and time into the practice of posture, into the art of feeling and be-ing, despite all the uppers and downers, suddenly at some point we find ourselves able to endure the most tricky, painful, testing times with our heads held high, acting (rather than re-acting) from a space of integrity.
Yoga is the greatest lover, medicine, drug and ritual wrapped into one. They're not just poses; they are portals to presence.
It's not the movement that matters....it's the way you move that does ;)