Tuesday, February 24, 2015
YOGA IS TRANSFORMATIONAL in all of its expressions. Centuries of variation aspired to transform to “rise above the suffering or existence” (especially when lifespan was typically shorter and basic subsistence required more than full-time effort) and/or to “yoke” or bind with the ineffable absolute or specific transcendent being(s). In India, this found expression in diverse religious and sectarian approaches such as the rich variety of Hinduism, Muslim and related Sufism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and broader pan-Indic movements such as Shaivism, and theologically-open sects, and even in militarized ascetic sects/orders.
As yoga became a part of established sects, yoga either became a motif or part of the sects’ rituals—secondary, and derivative and even degenerative where, in either case, was used to serve the objectives and goals of the sect.
Similarly, contemporary global yoga practices tend to not be that different, as evidenced by the great variety of “established” approaches and myriad individual systems. Some practices aspire to just be yoga, but there is always a directive.
Two aspects appear to be consistent. First, there is a dynamic in yoga that is transcultural that appeals to a variety of approaches, with many newer emphases such as health and therapy and even performance and competition/sport.
Second, there is a problematic dynamic that appears to be consistent. The problem arises with the vision of transformation. What is interesting is that the body-mind that one brings to yoga is already the consequence of conditioning by culture, everyday habit, injury/trauma. The body-mind tends to be approached as a “wreck,” with the yogic goal being one of trading the vaguer conditioning that has resulted from culture and life experience for a more specific “better” conditioning. Yoga is directed toward creating a conditioned body-mind to attain the goal of the specific approach/practice.
What if yoga was to aspire to step out of conditioning altogether?
There is another way to look at yoga and body-mind. Rather than use yoga to change body-mind, use body-mind to guide yoga. This involves approaching body-mind-as-it-is and allowing the wisdom/intelligence that has culminated naturally in the body-mind to emerge: natural body-mind.
With an orientation toward natural body-mind, calming and listening and following and freeing become truly transformative. There is trust in an inherent health that is evidenced in the complexity of body and mental awareness that is the consequence of billions of years of evolution.
How to make this shift?
Again, de-conditioning by physically stilling that then opens a general emotional response of calming, listening to stillness and to movement, and following breath. It is difficult to both listen and to allow the body physiology to offer direction when moving fast. Moving fast, you are onto something new before you “hear” or feel what might be present. Even in a group, there is a need for individual intuition rather than total uniformity.
The body-mind can be approached as a landscape to be discovered rather than as something to be directed.
In this sense, yoga goes back to its longstanding meditative aspect as primary. It is possible to just sit or lie or curl up or sway or shift posture and or breathe or just breathe.Body movement is slower and “poses” or asanas are “deep stretching” that is never fixed but rather continues to open or unfold. Practice can be “deep comprehensive stretching” so that movement is varied.
Rather than get increasingly specific on “how to de-condition body-mind,” perhaps the best place to begin might be to approach the yoga that one does (or any body-mind effort) as a form of conditioning rather than freeing, and begin to ask how body-mind might be more freeing or de-conditioning, and then slow and listen and see what appears. Rather than set an intention, invite something in and see what appears.