Yoga beyond Asana Practice

Asana practice is referred to as yoga, and although it is true, yoga is so much more than that. It is a way of life that goes beyond the practising of a variety of postures on a yoga mat. It is certainly true that while we are on our mats, sometimes contorted into shapes we are not exactly sure of how our bodies got there, learn not only about the shape and limitations of our bodies, but also the limitations we impose on our lives through our thoughts and emotions. The Bhagavad Gita describes yoga as follows:

Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.

In his wonderful book Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, Brian Leaf relates his experience of volunteering for a week at a Yoga Ashram. This was early in his yoga journey, and he, in many ways, still limited his yoga practice to what he did on his mat.

“You are a sadhak – a seeker,” he said, “a true yogi, and you should stay with us. Why are you leaving?”

“Because you don’t do yoga,” I replied.

My response was honest and without barb or resentment, and Misha just nodded. But now, years later, I see that Misha did yoga every moment of every day without ever unrolling a sticky mat. He was present as he ate, present as he worked, and present as he played. He was ever committed to God, chanting her name throughout the day. And most important, he faced every interaction and every moment with a full and open heart.

At the end of the book he sums up the wisdom of yoga as follows:

To unite and integrate the private, internal self with the exterior self that interacts with the world. To be the same inside and out. To be grounded in the truest part of oneself and to let that part blossom into the world.

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