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When is Yoga not Yoga?

I was asked by The Telegraph recently what I think about the ‘new fangled’ forms of Yoga:

“When you feel a really big stretch down your legs, you’re taking the body into fight or flight and releasing adrenaline. This isn’t what yoga is meant to do to the body (taking you to that place of unity between mind, body and spirit) and people who are doing this aren’t doing yoga, they’re doing something that’s being labelled as yoga.”

But what did I mean?

I’m not averse to experimenting with movement and exploring the omnidirectional movement patterns that the linear styles of Yoga can’t offer. However, I do think the essence of Yoga needs to be maintained.

In some of the newer styles of Yoga, I’m concerned that the mind/body connection element is missing, the spiritual aspect is being bypassed and the focus is mainly on the physical.

I’m not sure how sustainable this is for practitioners or the health of the body in a society that is already stressed.

Are we stressing the body further by forcing and pushing too hard, paying little or no attention to the signals being sent from the body in the pursuit of a shape or outcome? Or are we supporting the body by learning how to soften into a challenge to calm the nervous system?

Sthira Sukham Asanam

A verse in the ancient Indian text Yoga Sutras gives us the answer:

Sthira Sukham Asanam

My teacher Judith Hanson Lasater  translates this as “abiding in ease is asana.“

For me, there must be a sense of joy in Yoga practice. It’s where I can give up the struggle of doing and come to a place that flows, with a sense of acting without doing.

Yoga asana has nothing to do with struggle. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also playful and fun, an exploration of what’s inside us.

If we approach yoga with ego, always wanting to get a result, we miss that ease.

But, if we just enjoy the dance between the body and the breath, the pose often comes from nowhere and we go deeper into a pose than ever before, not through force but through effortlessness.

By giving the wisdom of the movement back to the body and letting the body, rather than the mind, guide us into the pose, we can find profound stillness in our practice.

It becomes a moving meditation where the outer body is moving, yet at our centre a deeper connection is being made and we feel safe, contained and still.

Within that connection, we can find unbelievable ease. It’s an ease that can’t exist in the thinking mind. It’s a deep peace that surpasses all our logical understanding.

And it’s this inner stillness that brings me back to my mat time and time again because in that stillness I feel alive, connected, sensitive and aware. I’m flowing, moving, vibrant and pulsating. I’m dancing.

Lara Heppell

About Lara Heppell

I use the incredible healing, calming, strengthening and restorative power of yoga to help you find the balance you need, no matter what stage of life you’re at. I couple this with Mizan massage, belly binding, birth preparation and doula services to support you as needed.

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