Why NOT Asana As Primary Focus For Yoga?
Ever wonder how to bring your yoga practice home? With all the glossy instagram pictures and Facebook posts, it’s hard to know what to do, and how not to feel like a fumbling mess if you can’t touch your toes to your head.
On these social media outlets, you’ll find “yoga challenges” that involve you progressing into crazier and crazier asanas for the sake of taking a photo and sharing a hashtag.
But, for what?
To what end do we seek flexibility? Why make asana the focus of our practice at all?
For many years, I chased after asana dreams, too. I yearned to get into ever advanced variations of postures that I thought would make me happier, healthier and more enlightened. I found that none of that was necessarily the case. The quest for more adept postures kept me inordinately focused on the body, to the detriment of the deeper practices of yoga. The focus on asana created hyper mobility in the joints that eventually became painful…and a heavy-duty daily practice was soon out of the question.
It was a confusing time.
When my body hurt from too much bending, and my asana dreams faded, I was left with…
…all the rest of yoga.
The truth is, though it was a challenging road (one that I’m still actively walking), I am grateful for the push away from an asana-based practice to a practice that serves the deeper needs of my psyche and soul. Recommitting myself to meditation, pranayama, chanting and ritual created a deeper connection to yoga…not the practice, but the state of mind.
Going from the outer practices to the inner practices is easy. There’s no pain, strain, or guilt associated with them. It withdraws the senses so that the approval seeking tendencies of asana fall away (try posting a sweet pic of your pranayama practice…). The reality is that it aids us in creating the condition for yoga itself to arise.
When it does, we feel more self-confident, self-empowered and independent. Meaning, we are confident in ourselves and need no one’s outside approval of our practice, we are empowered by the source within, and we are dependent on the connection we create with our #yogaeverydamnday.
When the focus of our practice shifts from a focus on bending and stretching to a focus on personal transformation, then we really push yoga to its limits, not the other way around. Yoga has the potential to transform us from the inside out, to shift our consciousness and allow us to remain connected to ourselves. This is the kind of stretch we need! When we stretch into our potential and bend into a newer level of awareness, then our hearts (rather than our muscles) open to receive the greatest gift yoga offers us: personal bliss.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alanna Kaivalya, Ph.D. – What initially propelled Alanna into her first yoga class was the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (a combination of hypothyroidism and an autoimmune disorder). Over the years Alanna has explored and studied many modalities of healing from diet, to energy work, to therapeutic practices, to physical movement, and even traditional Western medicine. Of all the things she tried, she came to know this: The body can only express the truth that it carries inside. Over the past 15 years, Alanna has written three books on yoga (Myths of the Asanas, Sacred Sound and Yoga Beyond the Mat), launched the world’s first and most comprehensive online 500 hour teacher certification program, and earned her doctorate in Mythology and Depth Psychology. Find out more about her at alannak.com.
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Yoga and meditation can support you on your thyroid healing journey but, how yoga works for some is different than others. Listen to your own body.