Yoga is a journey beyond just a physical practice

With social media over glamourising “fancy” yoga poses (asanas) these days, many practitioners tend to get caught up in a superficial pursuit of achieving these asanas. In the process, they let their ego get in the way by comparing their practice with other practitioners’, setting up unreasonable benchmarks for themselves (e.g. i must learn XXX pose within X months) and getting frustrated with themselves and their practice when this “end goal” is not met. Social media influence has become especially dangerous to young practitioners as it gives a wrong impression that anything short of achieving what is shown on that Instagram or Facebook post makes them “less of a yogi”. How untrue that is!

Yoga encompasses much more than just a physical practice of asanas and we should not be overly fixated on striving to achieve a final pose! As compiled by Patanjali Maharishi, yoga comprises 8 limbs to be practiced in a systematic order so as to create a union between the body (physical), mind (mental) and spirit (spiritual). The intention of a yoga practice should not be to “match up” to what social media portrays yoga to be (which is a very tainted view of the practice anyway). It should instead be a pursuit for the betterment of oneself – a journey involving the development of this union between the mind, body and soul for a healthy and purposeful life; a journey toward Samadhi. Only by coming into the practice with this knowledge and setting the right intentions would yoga be truly rewarding and beneficial.

Whenever we find ourselves comparing our practice with another practitioner’s, we should take a step back to reflect and re-evaluate our intentions. Are we letting our ego get in the way in a class? Are we pushing ourselves for the wrong reasons? Are we putting our body in danger of injury as a result? We must remind ourselves that this is OUR personal practice and not a competition. Yoga is a journey, not an “end goal” to be achieved. One should focus on the process, as it is in the very process where the true benefits of yoga begin to unfold.

“Don’t think that unless you have reached the ultimate final pose then only the fruit comes.  No.  At every level, asana has something to offer.” – Prashant Iyengar

 

8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

Physical

  • Yama – ethical standards and integrity
    • Ahimsa – non violence
    • Satya – truthfulness
    • Asteya – non stealing
    • Bramacharya – treat others the way you would like to be treated
    • Aparigraha – be free of selfishness and possessiveness
  • Niyama – self-discipline and spiritual observances
    • Saucha – cleanliness
    • Santosha – contentment
    • Tapas – finish all tasks with intensity
    • Svadhyaya – study and observe yourself
    • Isvara pranidhanani – use all energies for something productive, channel negative energy for positive tasks
  • Asana – physical practice of postures

Mental

  • Pranayama – life force, breath control
  • Pratayahara – withdrawal of senses from outside stimuli
  • Dharana – concentration

Spiritual

  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi – profound connection with the Divine and all beings

 

Claire Tan (200hr YTTC, Sep 2017 Weekday)