I met Tashi, a very wonderful yoga teacher, at Kaliyoga France. A while back, I asked her about the emotional and psychological impact of yoga for a feature I was writing. What she said chimed so deeply that I wanted to share it with you. You know I love yoga – and it’s not just because it’s fun to turn oneself into a human pretzel. For me, it’s far more than that. Tashi puts it far better than I ever could so I want to turn over this post to her words.
Tashi: “Yoga is a systematic approach to living with awareness and sensitivity. Since being human is, and has always been, a mysterious and complex adventure the yoga scriptures offer guidelines for recognising how to develop and sustain this awareness. The key to practising yoga is methodical ‘self-enquiry’.
When we go along to a local yoga studio or gym and practice physical postures for 90 minutes we are only exploring a fraction of the yoga teachings. We find ourselves getting healthier and fitter, which is wonderful, but the critical aspect of ‘self-enquiry’ may be missing if the class is only concerned with physical proficiency.
That’s not to say that the yoga postures are ineffective! The postures are an important part of the process of self-enquiry; the body is where we live, it’s our invitation to feeling, to sensitivity, the entry point into witnessing the nature of life. If you want to know something about ‘the world’, the first place to look is within; it’s where ‘the world’ springs from, where it’s witnessed and it’s the point of origin of any experience we may share.
Looking inwards can be a tender process because we are made to see what is actually happening with naked clarity and we don’t always like what we find. There is no sense in undertaking self-enquiry, however, with polite formality; we must get into the nitty-gritty of truth-telling with rigour and ruthlessness. Where else could we start but with the body which is our first and most reliable truth-teller, our cellular organic casing which we have carried through time and space, which tells our history and within which we have felt every action and choice we have ever made.
It’s not uncommon for someone to feel tears flow during the relaxation stage of an asana class. The process of stretching, twisting and moving the body reveals and opens our emotional, psychological and energetic blocks. We can be surprised by what we find lurking in our bodies and minds, and yoga invites a revelation which is not always comfortable. These tears and swells of emotion may be a physical release but it may be that we are simply glad to be at home in ourselves. A lot of our time is spent looking anywhere but inwards, we enjoy a myriad of distractions, entertainments and obligations – self-imposed or otherwise, we may feel fearful of what might be revealed if we stop, take time and reflect. We may be more interested to wonder about the inner world of others and how others might view us than what is going on inside ourselves.
The catharsis of self enquiry and the basic desire to understand ourselves intimately keeps us coming back to the mat day-after-day, week-after-week. We connect to ourselves by hugging the knees, holding the toes, softening the eyes, grounding the feet, lengthening the spine, opening our hips and perhaps,
if we practice well, opening our minds.”
Thanks, Tashi. 🙂