In the age of mindful revolution, there is no shortage of stripped-down, secularized practices packages as panacea to cure our obsessions. Popular yoga is mutated by the gigabytes and money. Occasionally we are reminded that Yoga is a spiritual discipline, an age-old practice to evolve human consciousness, that it is not meant to espouse hedonism or consumerism. Then why are we practicing the poses? Are we just “doing” Yoga? Is Yoga supposed to be done? Like laundry? Good for stress relief? Is relief the end?
Asana, known as yoga posture, belongs to the third limb of Patanjali’s Eight-Fold path. Only three sutras out of 196 are dedicated to asana. Yet tens of millions of people practice yoga poses without knowing anything about the yoga sutras or Patantaji. Many call themselves yogis, yoginis, or yoga fanatics in fact refer to a subscription to a body-centric lifestyle in the modern paradigm of fitness. The hashtags such as “#yogabody” and “#yogabodyworker” will clearly show the consumeristic intent of “doing” the yoga poses. Our beloved B.K.S. Iyengar pointed out that Yoga asanas are the external gate to an internal world. Nonetheless, even for yoga practitioners with some exposure or study of yoga philosophy, we do not often truly understand Guruji’s words or examine our intention when we practice. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of externally-oriented, hedonistic and consumeristic intentions.
ततो द्वङ्द्वानभिघातः ॥४८॥ (From then on, the sadhaka is undisturbed by dualities. II:48)
Here, according to Sage Patanjali, the effect of asana is not physical; it is mental and spiritual. Patanjali did not say that asana will bring the practitioner a perfect body, healthy hips or a calmer life. These benefits may likely to result from practicing yoga postures. In many classes, Prashant Iyengar (Prashantji) reminds us that Yog is not a physical culture. When we practice yoga postures, the benefits to the body and organs are the natural “result.” When we seek to get those benefits from yoga postures, we are not cultivating the correct intention. Some go after the “perfect” pose while others desperately want relief from pain via the poses. This morning he further explained on the “twilight” vrttis. (See the previous blog post.) We are constantly stuck between dualities, i.e. klista (affliction-creating) and aklista (non-affliction-creating), pain and pleasure, do and do not, bad and good. We consume in a yoga posture either to acquire “the” perfection, more flexibility, more strength or more ego-feeding pleasure of having accomplished in a posture. We also consume in a yoga posture when we want to feel good and nothing else. “Either is not good.” Prashantji reminded us again today. “Either creates attachment.” Attachment! Not liberation! How can we be undisturbed by dualities from practicing asanas when we continue to be consumeristic or hedonistic even in Yoga?
“Set the internal purpose.” What is your purpose?