There is no doubt in my mind that yoga, as it is, is now mainly focused on the body. The West took a couple of verses about the benefits of the asanas and expanded it to create an all-new version of this ancestral discipline. But it's not a bad thing as yoga would not have crossed our borders so massively without some interpretations. Our modern take on yoga is often the gateway to a deeper and more complex understanding of yoga’s purpose and, sometimes, our purpose in this finite universe. It is how I got into Bhakti yoga and, for some, how they get into meditation or even less spiritual routes. I firmly believe that the beauty of yoga is its potential to adapt to your needs and evolve at your pace. If it never gets past the physical aspect, I would argue it was not the right moment and, maybe, it will help you later in your life (or lives…). But there are no obligations to get interested into the deeper meanings, just ride the flow as it is and you will find a way to be happy with your yoga.
Although a spiritual route is not compulsory to enjoy the benefits of yoga, there is one aspect of the asanas that I believe I have to talk about. It’s a rabbit hole I quickly dived into and one that is hard to come back from. You see, the more you practise yoga, the more you get in tune with your body. You witness it changing and adapting to your practice. This process can be as beneficial as it is destructive. Let’s be honest, for most of us, yoga starts with judgement and it can be hard to get rid of it. The first months are incredibly frustrating, especially if you go into yoga with a basic understanding of what our society projects: yoga is to get flexible, yoga poses are beautiful, the poses look like this or like that, there is a good and a bad way, and so on… Internet wants you to believe that we, the yoga teachers, are incredible people with little to no problems and that our lives are dictated by order and calmness. That’s far from the truth. I think it’s mostly controlled chaos that we manage to hide fairly better.
But let’s get back to the main subject, your body. It is incredibly hard to start yoga with non-judgemental awareness. You will be frustrated, you will want to accomplish some yoga poses and you will judge the form rather than the intent. Asanas ask from us to be aware of our bodies and if there’s only but a little doubt about how you look, it will, at first, bring you into that downward spiral. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Sometimes it’s just minor inconvenience, but for some people, it makes them face buried scars. Wherever you are, you have to learn to get past the intention to truly enjoy yoga.
There is no rule book, but I can list some things that might help.
- Nobody cares about how you look while doing yoga. You are your main judge and the most severe.
- The intent is more important than the form and it doesn’t have to look good, to feel good.
- Handstands are not yoga. Crows are not yoga. Downward-facing dogs are not yoga. At best, they’re asanas and their goal is to help you prepare for a better connection between mind and body.
- To practise with love, you have to get rid of the goals you set for your body.
- No amount of followers you get from your ‘perfect’ practice will fill the hole in your heart.
One of the hardest things you will ever do in yoga is managed to get an intention-free body. But once you get there, that’s when yoga can start.