Is it just me, or has the rise in popularity of yoga brought with it a culture that includes the requirement to be, or strive towards the beautiful, flexible, fashionable, and to be valued based on the number of one’s Instagram followers?
The rise in popularity of yoga in the western world can only be a great thing- as we evolve to start to take steps towards repairing our mistreated physical and mental health; however, we need to take a reality check – check in with the true alignment and drive behind our practice.
Yoga was designed as a platform to prepare the body for meditation; and the physical asana is one of the limbs of Patanjali’s 8 fold or 8 limb path. Asana comes along AFTER Yama and Niyama, moral codes and disciplines, which guide us into a way of living that is aligned with our good for the greater good, non-harm, love, truth, contentment, purity, self-control, sense withdrawal, and devotion to a higher purpose – to name but a few.
I am not saying that in order to practice yoga, one has to overturn a modern western existence but to have an awareness that yoga is so much more than the practice of physical asana.
The flip side of this is that if we were to solely practice the asana, without any desire or gesture towards an inward journey, then we would still reap the amazing physical and energetic benefits – but we are missing out on most of the picture.
At Rise Yoga, our philosophy is that yoga is absolutely that “yoga is MORE than movement; not only a physical practice or “workout”, but a “work-in” ….it is an opportunity to delve into the inner workings of our thought patterns, negative or stuck ways of thinking, and to start to crack open the possibility that there may be patterns of thought that hold us back, not only from being the best that we can physically, but in our relationships with self and others. For me, when I see a posture that is seemingly impossible, and then with careful preparation, hard work, and the “expectation that perhaps it is not outside the realms of possibility; and then the posture comes alive – is this notion that what else is perhaps possible, that we have rendered as impossible? But how do we reach a balance between striving and pushing for more, for the belief that we can make the impossible possible, but still maintain a level of acceptance with where we are in the moment?
I believe the answer lies in the practice, in delving beyond the physical, and letting this be the benchmark ; when our yoga starts to take place away from the 4 corners of our mat – we are “successful” in the art of yoga: not when we achieve the ”perfect pose”; but when we react the “perfect way” in any given pose – or really, any given situation.
Yoga teaches us many things – to stay in the fire, to build resilience, focus, and physical and mental strength. So what if we measured our yoga depth by the way we interact with each other, the ripples we make positively into those of lives around us, by being an example of a steadfast, sturdy, loving, giving, caring individual, with the understanding that we are all nothing but love?
While this is maybe not as pretty in pictures as a dancer pose in bikinis on the beach- it is far prettier to the mind and heart, and I believe has so much more longevity. Yoga is so much more than movement, so much more than a physical practice: it is a way to be.
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Article by Rosie McCaughey
Rosie McCaughey is the Director of Rise Yoga in Richmond, whose mission and vision it is to promote positive body image and self-worth through yoga. She donates $1 from every students visit, every time to the Butterfly Foundation, Australia’s national eating disorder foundation, She is a qualified sports Physiotherapist, Yoga teacher, Clinical pilates teacher and massage therapist.