When you mention the word yoga to friends, how do they respond? Do you hear the typical ‘that’s cool, but I’m not flexible enough’ responses, or comments on the masterful one-fingered handstand on the front cover of Yoga Journal? Or perhaps with visions of their mothers following along to a Kathy Smith tape in the living room circa 1980? But as an Inner Fire yogi, likely none of these resonate. So take a moment. Think about what yoga is. It’s ok, get silly. Please, have a giggle. It’s only yoga. From an ‘outside the window’ perspective, yoga can appear anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to full-bore ridiculous—crazy contortions that magically jet-power your assent to enlightenment.
But yoga can be as simple or complex as you make it.
Truth is, the poses or asanas, are tools in your metaphorical toolbelt to allow your ego access to your inner or authentic self.
I am blown away by the incredible stylings of rockstar yogis. But a regular yoga practice is far less intimidating, albeit less glamorous, than one might expect—with an infinite amount of introspective rewards that will shift every aspect of your life for the better.
The word yoga translates into yoke in Sanskrit. Taking Chinese water buffalo out of the equation, this refers to the practice of uniting. But uniting of what? First, the union of body and breath, mind and heart, id and ego.
Ego, you scoff? Aren’t we on some metaphysical mission to snuff out that miserable beast? Yes and no. Your heart, or your id, may be the most effective life leader. Unfortunately, your ego is the one paying your taxes.
The yoga asanas are a method to quiet the mind through physical effort, creating a mental bridge—allowing access to your intuition or better self. But the physical practice of yoga is only one of the eight ‘arms’ of yoga. The other limbs focus on reverence for the self and the world as well as detachment from all things external.
Detachment can carry a negative connotation, but the yogic philosophy does not preach a defeatist attitude in the least. Detachment in the yogic sense aligns with surrendering to some higher good, knowing that essence always has your greatest good in mind—has your back essentially.
The ease in this acknowledgement allows a shift from the outward experience inwards.
The method to the yogic madness takes into consideration the fact that if your body feels good, that sensation carries over mentally—making introspection more easily accessible on a moment to moment basis. The veins of physiological truth run deep in the yoga poses—with variations that have made their way into modern athletic training and physical therapy—to strength muscles, improve posture, and deepen the breath.
What’s with the Darth Vader breathing anyway? Concentrating on your inhales and exhales is a cheap and easy way to reconnect with yourself and become present. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the beachy margarita of your autonomics nervous system) and clicks your physiologic gears into a slower mode, allowing your body and mind to reconnect—which conveniently lowers stress levels as well. Your chill, lime-slurping self is always a better version of you.
It is this more aligned version of you which can more easily find contentment if not satisfaction in the now moment. That moment of acceptance gives your heart enough room to wobble into appreciation for what is going right in your life and perhaps insights on how things could evolve.
Yoga, like all things in life, becomes what you make of it.
Yoga allows you to create protective mental buffer and release stressors of the day so that the slate is clean for your loved ones—and aren’t they the ones that matter the most?