No Asana? No Problem.
It has been about three months since my shoulder tendinitis began to flare up. It is slowly healing, with lots of patience, body-awareness, and to be quite honest more yoga than I have ever practiced before. You might be thinking, “but how?” The truth is, you don’t necessarily need yoga asana to practice yoga. So, whether you are injured like me or are lacking time in your schedule to get to the yoga studio, you can still practice yoga.
According to the guiding text on yoga, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written over 1700 years ago, the definition of asana is, “The posture that brings comfort and steadiness.” Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras does it say that you need to sweat, do core strengthening exercises, stretch until you can place your foot behind your head, or work towards the “goal” of the full expression of a yoga pose. I know, it can be misleading, especially if you see yoga being advertised as a way to be fit, toned, or achieve the “perfect” version of yourself. Trust me, I bought into that too, until I didn’t. I would show up to a yoga class ready to perform based on what I thought my practice should be, and in the end, I was left feeling disappointed, hurt, and confused.
So, if yoga isn’t the yoga postures that are broadcasted on Instagram or sequenced in a yoga flow, what is its purpose? It is simply a means to experience what it is like to be in the body and access the mind through each present moment experience. You can think of asana as a screwdriver in a tool box. Sure, there are different types of screwdrivers and they are useful for certain things, but it’s not the answer for everything. So, in order to use your toolbox wisely you will have to add other tools and then decide which ones to use according to whatever is presented in front of you.
Now, everyone’s toolbox is going to be unique. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what it looks like or how it’s used. After all, the practice of yoga is about accepting what is and learning from the present moment experience to make skillful choices in action. Seems easy enough right? Well, the problem is that we don’t spend enough time there, because we wish things were different. We either like things so much that we don’t want them to end or we hate something so much that we avoid it all together. We are constantly trying to change what is, and as a result, we are either living in the past or trying to anticipate the future. To put it bluntly, we think way too much.
Perhaps, all we need is to pause and be with what is. Be with the sounds around you, be with the breath, be with the sensory experience of touch, be with what is around you, be with your thoughts, be with your body. Simply be with it as it truly is, without needing to change it, attach to it, or identify with it. Be with yoga, as yoga is now.
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Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.