By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
In this day and age, the word and images of “yoga” are selling everything from yogurt to credit cards, and there is “yoga” mixed with any and all aspects of life you can imagine: yoga with and for our pets, yoga happy hours, anti-gravity yoga, yoga mashed up with almost every form of exercise, not to mention the mind-boggling amount of yoga products.
Our innovative marketing and capitalist system has taken the “yoga” frenzy and run with it, and we love it, too! We can go on grasping for the “next new” experience or thing, giving in to our usual mental habits, but feel good about it because “it’s yoga.”
Gimmicks have taken us so far away from the nitty gritty of yoga that it has become more difficult and complicated to answer the simple question: “What is yoga?”
So, here’s the nitty gritty. Yoga is an eight-limbed discipline, practiced to still the fluctuations of the mind, which typically serve to distract and disturb our consciousness. Amazingly, yoga was invented many thousands of years ago to find a way out of these ever-present disturbances in our mind that ultimately cause pain and suffering. Practicing yoga means to be specifically focusing the mind, training it to a more stable and quiet state.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foremost treatise on the subject of yoga, spells out very clearly this human dilemma of mental fluctuation and describes the eight-limbed practice of yoga. The Sutras point out that our mind has attached to all the things outside of our true self, giving us a false sense of identity that is fleeting and tenuous. We are convinced that we are our thoughts, our actions, our possessions, while in reality, we are none of those things. Practicing yoga brings us closer to our own truth — a pure and stable inner consciousness that is untouched by all the trappings of the outside world.
However, using “yoga” to sell seems to have warped the premise of yoga and left us with an even bigger dilemma. We have created just another tenuous and fleeting identity by using the word “yoga” — and we’ve left the actual practice behind. We wear our yoga pants, even if we didn’t step on the mat that day. We swing from hammocks, disconnected from the realities of body and life on the ground. When staying still is too hard, we just move faster. And if class is too boring by itself, we offer cocktails and catchy music as incentive. We have given in to the cravings and aversions of the mind in the name of “yoga,” ignoring yoga as the path that leads in the opposite direction.
Of course, the physical practice of yoga may always look different: individuals learn in different ways, and there are thousands of poses from which to choose. So, our challenge is to stay with the nitty gritty, to not get caught up in the gimmicks that bring more disturbance and distraction of mind. Even if the gimmick is what first draws us to practice, can we bring contemplation and reflection back to the premise of yoga itself?
After all, this is where we will find our longevity of practice. Yoga pants, yoga hammocks and yoga gear will come and go — and, whether we like it or not, even our bodies will age and change. The real question is how will we handle these changes, and can we move forward with the inner contentment and peace that yoga actually promises? Or, will we just continue to get caught up in cycles of craving and aversion, only now in the name of “yoga”?
Sooner or later, we must shed our attachments to even the gimmicks of our “yoga” — and put effort into the nitty gritty of practice — to reap the benefit yoga can provide.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2014, issue