Using posture to be aware


‘The study of asana is not about mastering posture.
It’s about using posture to understand and transform yourself’ – BKS Iyengar

I read this quote and immediately thought well there is how a message gets lost.   I feel many of the great masters lessons are lost and we miss the bigger picture.

So many classes I find so focused on alignment and correcting someone.  It is one thing to help someone see their potential but what I often witness is a student unhappy with themselves; unable to do something and the teacher showing them the horizon, and giving them instructions to keep practicing so they can get there.  Never once suggesting how to be with the present moment. Oh sure teachers will suggest to breathe right now but our thoughts are still busy and being anywhere else but here.

My position is and has been for some time about using the tools and techniques of yoga to be yourself.  Many hear this and think I’m saying give up.  No I’m not –  so listen to it again.  See your true self right now as you are. Because in truth you aren’t broken. You don’t need fixing. You probably don’t believe it.   Kind of like when someone tells you how nice you look; see how quickly you push away the compliment and find some excuse.

Ok you say but what about when I do have an injury?  Aren’t I hurt?  Yes you are but you are also more than that.  Kind of like when you get a cut, it is normal to spend time helping the cut.  But the real healing comes when we can let go of the focus on it.  We put some ointment on it and bandage it.  Surprise comes when we stop putting all our thoughts into it.  The power of the mind is amazing.

Our conditioning in life has us this way.  Watch or listen to commercials and see how much subconscious thoughts are used to make you feel like you need to improve or be more than you are.   Often we spend so much time grasping for a place within our thoughts and we rarely spend time be content or satisfied with where we are now.  Did you ever work hard for some goal in life and found yourself hardly enjoying the conclusion?  Moving instead to the next task.  That is very common because we spend so much time “there” instead of “here”.

The other day I had a young woman come up to me after class.  It was her first time with me and she said “That was quite unexpected.  I think I’ve been doing the wrong yoga for my life”.  I was teaching a yang/yin class but more important she picked up on what I was saying about our negative thoughts and how they hold us back from our potential.

She explained that she works full time and has a part time job and is back in school getting her masters.  Mid-terms are coming up and she is stressed.  She would beat herself up then for not making time to work-out and when she could fit it in, she would do a powerful yoga class hoping to work out the stress.  But it didn’t work out that way.  Instead she isn’t sleeping well and she has anxiety.   We talked about her mid-term and how she could be with her stress.  Stop avoiding being with this moment even when it is tough.  “What is the worst that could happen”?  Maybe some things happen to show us and if let go of trying we release the grip that has been hurting us.  This is very hard because we have to often let go of our ego in this process.

Then we talked about “letting it be”.  Before you can let something go you have to see it.  Being aware of your thoughts is the path to being with yourself right now. Not correcting the thoughts.  Being with them – even when we are hurt, angry, sad or upset.

For example stop right now and for 60 seconds just notice what you are thinking about.

Believe it or not but by pausing to notice, your busy mind just slowed down.  Once you start this practice of awareness start to notice how your thoughts jump to negative places; judgment, fear, blame.

Instead of judging or correcting the thought, you can redirect the negativity by noticing your breath or feeling your hands.  This is a yang way of directing into the present moment into a positive way so we can really see this moment clearly.  Another option is redirecting towards loving kindness by being grateful for having the capacity to be here today.  This is a yin way of being present in the moment.

When I suggested this in a workshop recently I had a woman who has been practicing yoga for a while come up and tell me that she never once took the time to do this.   “I never noticed that all my thoughts are so judgmental”

So back to the quote I have at the beginning of this message.  If we aren’t connecting or “yoking” (the translation of the word yoga) our mind in the posture, and just simply moving around in positions, then we are missing the transformation that yoga can provide.

Just a thought I wanted to share.