Posted by christina on Aug 29, 2012
It’s true, yoga can wreck your body. I once jumped back into an over-zealous practice after a car accident, way before my bones and muscles were ready to be stretched and prodded into sweet submission. It was a premature attempt at healing myself. . . but I didn’t give up on yoga. It was my own lesson in letting go.
While many teachers (myself included) profess the virtues of yoga like some kind of Holy Grail for diseases as diverse as diabetes to compromised heart health, fibromyalgia, and arthritis, it can also be a darned weapon you use against yourself. That is the tragedy of yoga taught or practiced with too much ego. I even tell my students that they should always take themselves to the edge of a stretch, but never, ever feel pain. This is easier said than done. The ego will assert itself in the most conniving of ways. This is why a skilled guru can help to pull one back from the edge, without letting you go over, and scale your practice back to something that is right for you at different stages of your life.
I feel that it is essential to look at yoga asana as only one aspect of practice for this very reason. Yoga was meant to calm the mind through the use of varying practices: asana, pranayama, mudra, meditation, bandha, etc. These were meant to be used in tandem with one another. Simply sweating yourself silly on the mat just won’t cut it, nor does it build an awareness of your essential nature – free of egoic distortions.
In a recent New York Times article, yoga took a pretty harsh critic – you could even call it a beating. While the points made by its author are essential to achieving about an ego-free practice, the true healing qualities of yoga should never be overlooked.
“Among devotees, from gurus to acolytes forever carrying their rolled-up mats, yoga is described as a nearly miraculous agent of renewal and healing.
They celebrate its abilities to calm, cure, energize and strengthen. And much of this appears to be true: yoga can lower your blood pressure, make chemicals that act as antidepressants, even improve your sex life.
But the yoga community long remained silent about its potential to inflict blinding pain.”
“[Long-time yoga instructor, Glenn Black's] message was that ‘Asana is not a panacea or a cure-all. In fact, if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.’ A lot of people don’t like to hear that.”
-William J. Broad, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body,” New York Times Sunday Magazine 1/8/2012
Getting the ego out of your yoga practice allows you to feel the subtle currents of qi, prana or life-force that are healing on quantum levels. There are 77, and counting, documented benefits of yoga practice from regulation of blood pressure, benefits to your gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, and respiratory system. It even makes you high with happy hormones that are produced with greater magnitude the more often you practice, but temper your time on the mat doing asana with meditation, pranayama and mantra in order to integrate the freedom of the mind with the expansion of the physical vessel.
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.
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Pic credit: http://www.rmaxinternational.com/flowcoach/?p=838