It is not about the asana, no really it isn’t….how to get beyond the fancy yoga poses

Seeing pictures of people in advanced yoga positions can be inspiring. One of the benefits of yoga is an increase in flexibility. Over time if you practice regularly, your yoga practice will change, you will be able to do things you never thought possible, but hopefully you will realise yoga has so much more to offer than freaky party tricks.

People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons. I am not going to tell you why to practice, you can work that out for yourself. I expect that your reasons will evolve, they will change over time as your practice deepens. I’m not going to tell you not to work on the yoga positions either. We all have yoga positions we can’t do and I think it’s great to work at them. I love doing something impossible everyday but not because it looks cool on instagram or wherever but because it challenges me. It doesn’t just challenge my body, but it challenges my mind, my ego, my beliefs. I learn to step outside what I think is possible. Sometimes I have to accept that I can do less on a particular day than I normally can and sometimes I have to believe that I can do more. The truth is it doesn’t matter which positions someone finds impossible it could be reaching to touch your toes in a forward bend or grabbing your ankles in a backbend. Where is your mind when you are doing it, where is your breath, are you here? Does your yoga practice help you to be a better person? Are you calmer, happier, more focused? These are the questions you should be asking.

Social media and yoga poses – Inspiring?

Over the last few years the bombardment of images of people doing advanced yoga moves on photographs or videos has increased. I sometimes find these images and videos inspiring and helpful. It can be interesting to watch someone else doing positions that are challenging. Sometimes I post pictures of myself and even made a video recently with the same intention. These things can be useful. They can also be intimidating because behind the video you can’t see all the hours of dedication that made that possible, you can just see someone doing something impossible with relative ease.  As a yoga teacher sometimes I feel like there is some kind of pressure on me to be some amazing gymnast. No such pressure exists of course. I have a commitment to myself and my students to practice, to learn and continue to learn more so that I can share more but this learning isn’t just physical. I have to understand what it is like to practice, to be a student of yoga philosophy as well as asana, to be on my path and to practice diligently. I have to understand what it is to be physically unable to do something again and again and again until one day I can. I do commit to this daily both on and off my mat.

It is not about the asana…

This is so easy to say. As we can sit there and smile at each other like the spiritually realised beings that we are. We can say it again and again but ultimately we have to learn it. If we are focused on an asana obsessed even, should we deny this experience, suppress it, deny that it is there and repeat the phrase, it is not about the asana again and again. To do so is to try too hard to be something that you are not in that moment. It is natural when when you practice asana and you can’t do something to want to be able to do it. As you practice you will probably find your habitual thought patterns unravel. They might not always be pretty, your ego might not be as spiritually realised as you think it should be, I know mine isn’t ;-). That’s okay, embrace it all, allow yourself to even experience any negative thoughts or emotions, accept that you experiencing these that but know that it is nonsense. Laugh at yourself, share your experience, just know that this is not what yoga is about. Your mind is just clinging to whatever it understands and your ego is driven by progress, this okay but it isn’t important. If your mind clings to the importance of asana at some point it will have to let go, the practice itself will teach you, surrender to it and bring yourself to your mat, just as you are. So yes yoga is not about the asana but you practice asana so it’s okay to think about it, it can even be transformative…..
What is yoga about to you?  Do you find videos/ images of yogis in advanced positions inspiring or intimidating?
About Helen Aldred

Helen Aldred practices and teaches ashtanga yoga in Liverpool. She loves to share and discuss yoga, as well as health and wellbeing. Follow her on twitter and join Ashtanga yoga Liverpool's Facebook community .

Comments

  1. Hi Helen. I really like the way you present these posts with questions, which makes us to think. In my humble experience with yoga I feel that asana is a part of it, just noticing our bodies and that we are alive it is wonderful. But on the other hand asana could get in the way, principally when we get obsessed about achieving some postures or feel that our bodies should be in certain positions. As an home practitioner I found the best way to deal with these “obsessions” were to practice full primary, not repeating any postures, and giving the best I can in each posture. In this way I found that I do not overwork in the most difficult postures preventing injuries and still finishing the practice invigorated and not exhausted. But this are only my personal observations of ashtanga yoga. Other people have other opinions as we all know. The beauty of doing all the time the same sequence is that we start seeing what works and doesn’t work, and could take responsibility for our practices. And what works one time, could not work another time, circumstances change all the time. In the end, there aren’t definitive answers, just perceptions.

  2. I have contrary point of view on this, anyway thanks for your post, worth reading it.

  3. I have different thoughts on this, anyway many thanks for this posting, really worth reading it.

  4. It takes time to read the whole post and to be very true I am not very big fan of Yoga and not an expert as you are well this is wonderful post and you have explained your thoughts in well manner its really worth to read this post.

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