As we practice yoga we are constantly learning.
We are learning about the body, we learn our asana practice: the benefits, contraindications, alignment. We learn meditation, various methods, how to still the mind.
We learn pranayama, breathing techniques, slowing the breathing, quickening the breath. So much outside knowledge is entering our brains, and there is so much to learn.
However, when you have learned everything there is to know… where do you go from there?
Yoga and self knowledge
Well, there is one thing we are constantly developing in our yogic education, one thing that ties into all these aspects, and that is the education of the self.
Yoga brings up a lot of self-education, some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it very ugly. Often we learn things about ourselves which we previously were unaware of, and often it is the stuff we don’t want to know.
I can sense you reading this with one eye, as you slowly start to move away from the screen. This isn’t a subject many people like to approach. The “stuff” we suppress deep within our minds, within our bodies, is what we do not want to acknowledge, but in yoga, it all comes out.
Yoga is a circular education, there is no end — we are always learning and enriching ourselves, even if it means we have to face those big bad demons.
Within yogasana frustrations can be brought up.
Hands up who has ever been frustrated that you couldn’t come into the perfect alignment for a certain pose? Hands up who has ever fallen out of headstand or bakasana and felt like ripping the sticky mat to shreds?
Of course it is frustrating when you want to practice something and you’re finding it difficult, but this is also those demons we mentioned earlier. This could be suppressed anger, frustration or a general imbalance of emotions from other parts of your life which you are holding in certain areas of the body. The tension or tightness of your hips and shoulders is there for a reason.
Yes, maybe you haven’t stretched those muscles in years, maybe you spend your working life at a computer and your shoulders naturally round due to this; but also the frustrations from work, family, relationships, and other stresses can work their way into your joints, muscles, bones and have an affect on the physical body.
So, how to let go of these inner demons and face them?
Yoga and self acceptance
Well, if you came here for an answer unfortunately I can’t give you one… I have no idea, as I am still learning myself.
But I can suggest a few pointers.
The key is acceptance.
That is very easy for me to say “the answer is acceptance! Ok, thanks for your time.” But it doesn’t have to be as vague a concept as it sounds.
Next time you find yourself getting frustrated in a pose, remind yourself that this is the very reason why you need to practice that pose. The idea that ‘nobody is perfect’ is a good mantra to live your life by. Everyone struggles with something, and if your frustrations happen to lie in your hips, your shoulders, your balance or your strength, so be it. These are the aspects that need the most work.
And by jove, when you achieve it, it feels amazing.
Another factor to think about, is the state of our minds. Our aim is to let go of all these suppressed demons, and to allow them out into the world, freeing ourselves.
Yoga and happiness
In the modern world, we seek happiness through making money, a new car, status, drinking and eating and generally chasing temporary pleasures.
We are trying to gain happiness through satisfying the ego, the result is that we wind up using other people for selfish ends, creating hatred, fear, jealousy, anxiety and tension, and all that bad stuff that sits with our demons. A continual chase means nothing is ever good enough, causing the opposite result to the one desired, we then becomes mentally tense and thus unhappy.
Happiness lies in the mind and the self.
Take a moment to consider what you think happiness is…
When have you been at your most happy? Lying on a deserted beach sipping a cocktail, without a care in the world? Having no money troubles and a job that you love? Or even having a big family dinner and enjoying the company of those you love?
Happiness doesn’t lie in manipulating the world around us to suit our needs, happiness is not the cocktail, the money, the job or even other people. By reprogramming our mind with meditation, we can find permanent happiness in our own being.
But, of course, we continue to chase these things because we are following the program we have constructed for ourselves.
Meditation is a way of changing this “mind program,” to train our mind to work in a different way, just as we can train our bodies to work in a different way. Meditation can help us to re-program our brains to react in different ways, so that we don’t depend on ego trips.
By always wanting more, fighting for more luxuries, being unhappy when we don’t have them, we are fighting life. And when we are fighting life, meditation cannot truly take place, or ultimately not achieve its benefits to the full potential. Harmonizing our mind, and flowing in the same direction as life will lead to naturally occurring meditation with our environment, and this will be a continual state of being.
Yoga and self-realization
When hatha yoga came about many years ago it wanted to bring about the notion of using the body as a tool or vehicle towards enlightenment.
The idea of Samadhi, in its various forms and guises, had already been discussed and brought into the world, Hatha yoga then wanted to develop the body’s potential so that the body can withstand the realisation. So basically, haths yoga wanted us to be able to achieve Samadhi or enlightenment, without having to take ourselves off to a cave in a mountain and live in silent meditation forever.
The thought was that we can all live in the world out of the fullness of self-realization.
We can have a job, be married and be spiritual all at once.
This was very revolutionary at the time, it meant that householders could be yogis. So for many years, we have been combining yoga and “the real world” for want of a better phrase. However, that “real world” needs to be limited to your contentment.
If there is always a want, a desire or a greed aspect of your life outside of yoga, then the yoga practice can never fully come to fruition.