E-RYT 500, yoga instructor for children and adults

Archive for December, 2012

Fruits of the Practice

Yoga is an 8 limbed path, and the asanas are only one aspect of the practice. However they are the part most easily seen externally, therefore we tend to focus on it. At first this may seem to be counter to the spirit of yoga, which is constantly teaching us to turn inward. And for the most part this is true, we are better off when we don’t worry about what we look like on the outside and especially when we don’t compare ourselves to the person on the mat next to us. But then again there is something awe-inspiring about watching a practitioner absorbed in the flow, gracefully taking the shape of each pose. Why then do we look up to and attempt to emulate this external aspect of the practice? Well the asanas do serve a purpose, and although they aren’t more important than the other 7 limbs they also shouldn’t be discounted as purely aesthetic.
The male bowerbird engages in an intricate mating ritual in which he builds a little hut or shelter of sticks and leaves and arranges carefully selected colorful objects in and around it. The females judge which male has the best collection and select a mate accordingly. At first glance this may seem silly, why would a female want to pass on the genes for collecting colorful objects to her offspring? But the secret to the bowerbird’s ritual lies beneath the surface. If a male builds a sturdy bower and collects many colorful objects it means he possesses the valuable traits that it took to accomplish his feat. He was persistent, determined, and organized. He defended his bower from attempted theft by other males. He was strong and healthy enough to fly far and wide searching for and retrieving the objects. His eyesight and coordination were good enough to collect and categorize the objects. So the female is actually selecting all of these “hidden” characteristics.
Therefore when we see a yogi performing a particularly challenging asana, we may intuitively see the hours of practice, consistency, and determination behind it. We may feel the honesty to body and self that such a practice requires. We may reflect on the willingness to try and fall short that came time and again before the asana was mastered. We may imagine the deeper layers of the emotional body that were tapped into as the yogi worked with the physical body.
This is not to say that every person who practices yoga will master every asana. Yoga is a lifelong practice and there is always some new level to aspire to. But as long as we don’t become focused solely on the poses we can or can’t do, there is no harm in admiring the journey it took to get there.

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