Explaining Yoga 🤔🙈
Recently, I had one of those conversations with a cab driver about yoga. He found out I'm a teacher and amidst a lot of hand waving, he basically wanted me to sell it to him, whilst also admitting he was utterly unconvinced of its benefits. Now, it’s very difficult to explain something to someone who is committed to misunderstanding but nevertheless, I tried.
As someone who has studied yoga practically and theoretically for years now, I really struggled to persuade the taxi man. I felt heartened, rather than discouraged by this though. It is often said the richest experiences we can have are beyond words. It suggested to me that the experience of yoga is hard to translate, unless you’ve also actually experienced it. Which means, you need to actually do it to understand. I tried to explain this but he thought it was a cop out.
Everything I explained about yoga - body and mind awareness, feeling centred, experiential self-knowledge in real time, feelings of peace and acceptance, relaxing into yourself, feeling present - he didn’t understand because he hadn’t experienced these things in his own body. He didn’t even think this was possible, so excluded the benefit of even trying.
I’m not a yoga evangelist, so I have no desire to force the benefits of yoga onto people that aren’t interested! Yet, this exchange stayed with me. Something in this man’s spirit was clearly interested and excited, yet his ego resisted and had already decided what was and wasn’t possible or worth his effort and attention. I saw him fight with himself in front of my eyes. I know this wasn't about me at all but it got me thinking about how much goodness in life we exclude without realising because we don't trust ourselves (and life) and we have already limited what we think is possible.
It made me realise the circular nature of the mind and why we must never let it become our master. It must always remain a loyal servant. The mind can only imagine what it has already experienced and often rules with cynicism, fear and caution. Yet, our minds are powerful mediators of how we experience the world around us. It both shapes and is shaped by events in our lives.
Therefore, if we don’t even think something is possible and our minds believe it, we won’t even try to go towards it. In so doing, we stay never knowing what might have been possible. What I found difficult to explain to the taxi man, was that although yoga can often appear to be a physical practice from the outside, there is so much more going on internally. For example, many times in the practice I've assumed I'd never be able to do something and so wouldn't even try. So often I've assumed aspects of the practice would always be off limits for me, yet, through working with my teacher and with consistent practice, I'm always surprised but what is possible. What my body will yield to and offer up when I least expect. This happens on the mat but of course this is a metaphor off the mat too - this expansion of my experience and beliefs. How much more space, awareness, bandwidth and bliss could I experience if get my mind out the way and become fully present to each moment and each present feeling. If I allow for more faith, practice and surrender.
What blessings do we block when our minds are so adept at limiting what it thinks is possible. Yet the heart and soul crave expansiveness, creativity and mystery and when we follow their calling, our paths and experiences can guide us to some rich and interesting places. It doesn’t have to ‘make sense’, you just gotta feel it in your bones. When we don’t truly understand that our natural state is one of bliss and wholeness, we can block our blessings before they even arrive. We don’t recognise the gift, for the mind has already taken control and deemed what is and isn't possible.
I think yoga is the process of challenging our limited mindsets, so that we can remain in a place of humility, curiosity, presence and openness to miracles. And if that doesn't quite explain it, I'd say get on the mat and try.. Yoga is '99% practice, 1% theory' (Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois) 😉
More life, more liberty, more love - thank you for reading 💜