We have all done it—bought a new toy or piece of equipment and are so eager to use it we just throw it together any way we can, totally dismissing the manual that it comes with.
We use this machine, even if it is put together the slightest bit askew. Year after year, it may work, but since not used properly in the first place, it wears down. Or, because of some accident, it may ultimately break.
We take this machine to the repair shop; they fix it the best they can, maybe even put new parts in, but it still may not work exactly as we would like. Only then we might actually try to find the manual that has been shoved in a file or box somewhere collecting dust. But in most cases, we just get angry at the machine for not working properly, and ultimately ignore it.
While walking the other day, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a manual for the body?” And then it dawned on me that we actually have been given that manual—it is yoga—and we all should “read” it.
Obviously, we are all born with a body in one shape or another. At that time, there is no chance to read a manual, so we use it any which way we can. We might be urged from one person or another about how to move, walk, run, sit, etc., depending on the activities we involve ourselves in, but at some point, we have to become aware of our own body, know our own body and understand how it works at a very personal level.
Our early years are like the use of the machine without reading the instructions. We develop habits that may or may not be helpful in the long run—standing on one hip more than the other, slouching, sitting in all the wrong chairs, compensating for any early injuries we may encounter. In those years, it is possible that muscle mass and/or skeletal structures become imbalanced and begin to cause certain discomfort or annoyance, or maybe even injury. There are many things our human “repair shops” can help us with—new knees, new hips, adjustments, etc., but on top of the repairs, nothing is better than strengthening the knowledge of our own body firsthand. Ignoring the body is not an option. We can’t put it on a shelf and forget about it or buy a new one altogether, and getting mad typically makes things worse. We have to dig out the manual, and begin to learn to use our body better, no matter what shape it might be in.
A good yoga practice is really the manual to our own body. Yoga teaches us to stand well, sit well, breathe well, move well and rest well—all aspects of living well, and helps us use the body to its utmost potential. We have to come to know what our bad habits are before we can change them, and yoga postures bring about this knowledge through movement on many levels. Adding focus to the breath during these movements then brings overall coordination of the body and the mind.
Instead of overuse in one area and underuse in others, we begin to learn to balance out all action with support both internally and externally. We become more knowledgeable about our self from within, and are able to make subtle adjustments in all we do.
So, even if your “machine” has been through a lot, had parts replaced, or has just been “well used,” it is never too late to read the manual and get some insight into its proper usage. Even if there has never been a problem and no reason for repair, yoga is a great way to learn about your self at a deeper level than just the physical. Each of us is a complex and fascinating being. The more we can “read” and learn about ourself through yoga, the more we can live an enriched, empowered and balanced life.
Some manuals to buy:
Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health by BKS Iyengar
The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue