We LOVE yoga don’t get us wrong. We’re always interested in how deep we can go so we open up the question…
Can yoga serve a purpose beyond tight abs and stress relief?
Yoga has become a bit of a pop culture fad, and we see it increasingly being pulled away from its ancient vedic roots. We often associate yoga with just the physical asana practice, which is probably why many consider it a physical phenomenon. Benefits such as better wellbeing, emotional balance and ‘stronger spiritual connection’ are often attributed to the practice. There’s many psychospiritual and physical benefits to the practice, and they are widely known. But how deep an impact can the practice really have?
Well, lets start with the ‘spiritual connection’. Does yoga make you more spiritual?
There really is no difference between our spiritual body and our physical body – it is essentially the same thing in different forms. No need to go to yoga expecting to be spiritual and happy. I’ve seen many devout yogis that don’t look far from miserable. Yes, your breath is a powerful tool. Your body is a powerful tool. And with the right teacher, these practices can be undoubtedly transformational!
As taught in today’s society, yoga does not guarantee ‘spiritual elevation’. That part is up to you – and I promise, there are millions of other ways to form a connection with your breath, body and emotions. Every moment brings an opportunity to check in with yourself, you don’t need to be on the yoga mat to do it.
Like anything, it’s the intention that we bring to the practice that matters.
What could our intention be for yoga?
We do yoga to be free.
Chances are, if your yoga teacher or practice was good, you end the practice feeling better than you did before. Lighter, more energetic, more relaxed – it changes from day to day. But the outcome is usually positive, or at least cathartic, whether you cried in savasana or fell out of your handstand.
Feeling good is the largest indication of freedom there is.
Euphoria, bliss, ecstasy bring us further away from mental and emotional slavery, and closer to freedom. That’s why all the greatest yogis were considered rebels and lunatics when yoga first evolved as a practice. Yoga existed to allow people to be free from repression and control. If you do yoga to manage stress or depression, you are essentially asking for freedom from negative emotions (the mind’s biggest slavery). So we can do yoga to be free, and feel good along the way.
Isn’t that the case with any practice? Most practices are called ‘practices’ because they involve a constant evolution and progression. It’s the same with any goal – it requires work and practice to be achieved.
So if all our goals exist to bring us closer to feeling free, alive, and in love with life… I think we should ask ourselves three questions every day, every practice, and at every crossroad:
1. How does what I’m doing contribute to my freedom?
2. Am I taking my ego too seriously?
3. Is this bringing me closer myself and to others?
You may discover that yoga brings you further away from your freedom: maybe your body doesn’t want to be told what to do and desires to express itself in a different way. You may find yourself taking your practice so seriously that you forget why you are even there! You may also watch yourself slip into ‘isolation mode’ of daily yoga practices and zero contact or engagement with your loved ones. The ‘benefits’ of yoga are so much better when shared!
We’re human, and our egos are substantial – it’s no wonder we fall into these traps. That’s why checking in with ourselves with these questions is essential. So we can make sure that everyday we are practicing our needed yoga for that day – whether it be an asana practice or a night of dancing until sunrise.
Isabella Gucci-Ruffalo xoxo