The following is an excerpt from The Path (January, 2023). Join us on this journey to the wild and sacred self.
“That which is hard in your body is of the nature of the Earth, and it supports the other organs. Hair, skin, nerve, flesh and bones are the miniature forms of the different aspects of Earth. Sound, touch, form, taste, and smell are the qualities of Earth.” — M.R. Jambunathan, The Yoga Body (1941)
To connect with the body is to connect with the earth, for our body is merely an extension of this planet. So while walking in a forest and making shapes on our mat may seem very different, both honor the same Universal spirit. Both bring us back in touch with what is our essential nature.
And so yoga is very much a physical tradition, even though many within the community would like you to believe differently. These days it seems, āsana is increasingly being portrayed as somewhat of a lesser practice, an exercise for those less evolved. As if the body is something we must one day transcend. Perhaps, but only when we are dead. And we are most certainly not dead yet!
Of course, such thinking is an example of how the mind loves to play tricks, especially when there is something it doesn’t want to face. Like aging or injury. Like our own inner critic or feelings of insecurity. So rather than explore these underlying fears, it’s simply easier to make āsana the bad guy. Or at least, the inferior one.
Then again, society doesn’t help with its obsession with youth and achievement. Nor does the continual social comparison that has become social media. Still, this distinction that’s being made between the merits of a physical versus the spiritual/contemplative dimensions of practice completely misses the point of the ultimate union that is yoga.
Besides, the physical nature of yoga is more than just the obvious movement and breathing exercises, as the mind and spirit are of the same material substance as the rest of the body. So work with one aspect and you affect all aspects. The body is simply easier to work with. Not to mention, a far more reliable source.
It’s as John O’Donohue once wrote: “Our bodies know that they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless.” Don’t let your mind take you away from your home. There is only one earth and you have only one body. So now is not the time to abandon your āsana practice, but may be the perfect time to reassess your approach.
Because these postures are about more than simply anatomy, encompassing more than just muscles and bones. Āsana is a conduit for nature, an expression of the creative force that resides within us and all around. And our practice, a physical manifestation of the one universal source.
“The earth is our origin and destination. The ancient rhythms of the earth have insinuated themselves into the rhythms of the human heart. The earth is not outside us; it is within: the clay from where the tree of the body grows.” ― John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
*This workshop is included with The Path and Mentorship programs.