With so many Handstands, Forearm Balances, Jump Backs and gravity-defying positions, sometimes yoga seems like a form of acrobatics. And with so many pretzel shaped postures, backbends, feet touching the head, deep twisting and bending, sometimes yoga seems like a form of contortionism. In truth, though yoga postures can flirt with the same territory as Acrobatics and Contortionism, it is neither.
The goal of the yoga postures is to put the mind and body in a unified place. It is not to bend deeply or go upside down or even to be strong, flexible or in shape. The inverse is actually true. These characteristics of the postures affect the relationship between the body and mind.
Try balancing on your head or on your hands. Yes, it is unnatural, and that is the point. It demands complete focus and presence. If there is even a flicker of distraction the posture falls apart. That is why yoga contains the "acrobatics" - to bring us fully into the present and into our bodies.
The deep flexibility required by some yoga postures, like putting the feet behind the head or even sitting in Lotus, has more of an energetic concern. To open the body to that degree, the mind and body must relax completely. Often the poses that require significant flexibility deal with the rotation of the hips. By rotating the hips, we access a tremendous pool of energy that sits at the base of our spine. Opening the hips unlocks the energy and sends it up the spine into our brains and the tops of our heads, where our spiritual centers lie.
With so many physical demands in the yoga practice, it is easy to think that it is a physical practice, but it is not. Each physical position is meant to create alignment between our body, mind and spirit.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga