Effective and ineffective application of yoga

Yoga Practice

Yoga, like any other tool, can be used effectively or ineffectively. I observe that a large percentage of people drawn to practise yoga are control freaks, and I include myself in that. Yoga’s precision, accuracy and self-control waft a fake world of safety and sense of ‘I’m in total control’, and this lures control-seekers in. But we are only human; we are not in total control of what happens in our lives or in the world. We do have the power to choose and respond, but we do not control what may come or how our responses may be received. I don’t even believe we can control how we feel about something. I am constantly taken by surprise by my emotional responses to life. We are mysterious creatures, living in a mysterious world.

As a species, we really like to be able to understand that things ‘happened because of this’. When we cannot account for something in this way, we fall away at the seams, especially when it personally affects us. Like when something unfair happens; a young, innocent child dies tragically before its parents. Or when someone has a tragic accident and is left paralysed from the neck down and has their quality of life stripped from them. Or when a woman gets breast cancer despite a lifelong dedication to being healthy, conscious, active and loving. In these scenarios we touch the edges of despair and are shaken to the core because it’s unfair and unaccountable. No one can give a good enough answer as to why it happened. Even the knowledge that ‘life isn’t fair’ doesn’t satisfy us. Yoga can be used ineffectively when its veneer of safety and control attracts the weak part of us all that is unable to handle the mystery and insecurity of life. This veneer leads us to believe we can master our bodies, minds, hearts, health and spirits and thus live harmoniously in a constant state of peace, undisturbed by the daily wobbles of life. This is not true! It’s pseudo yoga appealing to the scared part of us that can’t bear change or vulnerability. For some people change may actually be structure and regularity.

We all have comfortable and uncomfortable stations. I see a lot of people using the tool of yoga as a way to steer away from the uncomfortable and prohibit change. And I think to myself, ‘you’re missing the gold’. The ability to calm, ground, direct, focus, create space and clarity is a tool to assist you in facing and dancing with the uncomfortable. It is not a rug to slide over the mess or a concealer to hide the spot. The pleasant effects of yoga practice can seduce us into stagnation and repetition. I wonder, as a teacher, when I see my students use the yoga axe as a saw, what can I do to assist them? How can I encourage them to effectively engage with this powerful practice to transform and live all that they are?

Copyright © Alex Hanly 2007-2015

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