I’ve taught at an amazing amount of places in the last couple of months. All different ones: yoga schools, retreats, hostels, hotels, parks and beaches. One thing I noticed is a lot of people say they do yoga, but they actually mean they do yoga poses. As soon as I started talking about the eight folded path, about yamas and niyamas, about trapped emotions in the body or any other yoga philosophy related item, most had no clue where I was talking about. To be clear: doing yoga poses is not doing yoga. It’s like going to a fancy, healthy restaurant, ordering a five-course dinner and just eating the soup, leaving the rest untouched.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with just doing yoga poses, but I think if that’s all you do, you are really missing out. Next to that, there is a little danger in there as well. I’ll come to that.
Doing just yoga poses is a bit the American way. Yoga came from India as a full package: including the recommendations of behaviour, breathing exercises, control of the senses and most important: meditation. Most of this was a bit ‘out of reach’ for the average American, but there was a tiny bit in this yoga they could relate to: physical exercises. Asanas. Yoga poses. So yoga poses became yoga. The rest of the package was thrown away. Too difficult to understand, too time consuming, too moral and too much in conflict with making a lot of money.
From America yoga spread to the rest of the world, following not the Indian way, but the American way. Making yoga poses yoga. And that is what most yoga schools offer: yoga poses. Catering for what the main crowd wants.
As I said before, there is nothing wrong with it, but you are missing out. The yoga poses (asanas) are great to heal your body physically and they work emotionally as well; calming the mind, solving some unresolved emotions on a unconsciousness level. But there is so much more in yoga. So much more to gain if you go for the full package. This feeling of ultimate, everlasting happiness is within reach. No big car, no big house, no new girl- or boyfriend, no new iPhone will give that to you. Yoga can. If you go for the full package.
By doing just yoga poses, there is a little danger as well. Stiffness, inflexibility in your body are trapped emotions. If we start working on them, we reactivate these old emotions. Some will be activated on a unconsciousness level, so you might have some strange dreams, be a bit restless for a while, but then they are gone. Some however will be on a consciousness level. Making you cry of feeling sad or angry during or short after your practice. If you are not aware what is happening, you might step away from yoga after a while, because it just makes you sad. Or you might get stuck in these old emotions. If you go for the full package, you can resolve them and go through life a little lighter, happier.
The goal of yoga is to return to this ‘big ocean of love’, where we originate from. To do so, we have to become a pure soul, within a pure body. The asanas clean your body to an extent. You have to do the rest, by stop eating artificial colouring, preservatives and all other things that come out of a fabric instead of from mother nature and by learning to deal with emotions, through seeing what you really are.
The asanas help to purify your soul, but to have a real, pure soul, there are some guidelines to live by, called the yamas and niyams. They include non-violence, non-stealing, speaking the truth. How pure can your soul be, if you just sold a crappy car to an old lady for way too much money, just because you want to get your bonus? How pure can your soul be if you just created a new candy or cake, full of sugar and other not-healthy chemicals which you are going to feed to millions and millions of kids? How pure can your soul be if you just honked and shouted at four people in a traffic jam, because they didn’t behave the way you think they should?
The purify your soul more, to get rid of all these thoughts that are continuously in your head, you have to do breathing exercises. They will calm your mind, burn old habits; faster and stronger than any yoga pose will do. You have to learn to control your senses. Not being distracted by everything you see, hear, smell. And you have to meditate. Calm your mind on one hand, focus on your behaviour patterns on the other hand. Solving them, making sure you are not hold back anymore by old emotions, by your past. And helping you to see you are not your emotions, you are not your body, you are not your thoughts, you just are. (I will explain this in detail in a future blog.) All of this will help you to reach ultimate, everlasting feeling of happiness. To feel better than you ever felt before.
So if you really want to do yoga, step on your mat every day to lay down your foundation, but then take your yoga of your mat as well. Start breathing, start behaving as a pure soul and most important: start meditating.