Why the shape of the pose has zero value – a yogic view to enlightenment
15. Juni 2020
Shaping your body on your way to enlightenment
To start with: Yoga is not a sport. If you seek for toning your muscles and define the shape of your body, you find a lot of better alternatives. Neither is Yoga a direct entry into “the gate of heaven” or enlightenment, even though you may have heard this somewhere.
However, it can be both. If you dare to practice, study and finally let go.
All Yoga – all Easy?
I have to admit, I got completely pulled into this Yogic world; beautiful bodies showing stunning pictures in amazing postures at incredible places. Looking at these Yoga pictures gave me an immediate feeling of freedom and peace. “If you are able to hold this or that pose, you really mastered your body and you definitely mastered your mind”, was my perception. You have mastered your life.
I wanted to be like them. I wanted to have these staggering pictures of myself, posing at amazing places. Most likely, I wanted other people to look at me saying: “Look, how she masters her life”. Within a year, where I had re-started a regular Yoga practice, I had begun to see results. I saw changes in my physical body and in my mind. My core was more stable, I better kept my balance and the rise and fall of my temper had diminished.
This was in 2018 – I had a lot to learn.
But what is Yoga?
Soon, I learned that asana practice (the movement of your body) is not Yoga. In fact, it´s just one single step towards the overall goal of every Yogi: reaching Samadhi/the Higher Self. Everything else is just Ego.
Regular asana practice helps you grow your muscles, deepen the core stability and in general can lead to a well-defined body. But asanas cannot be equated with Yoga. Yoga is much more than just the movement of your body.
There are different schools of Yoga, which will guide you along your paths. One of them is Ashtanga Yoga, translated with “the eight-limb-path”, described by the ancient Yogi and sage Patanjali. According to him, this is the path to live a purposeful life. But you cannot check these steps in one go like working along your to-do list. You have to implement it in all aspects of your life. Implement and internalize it, enhanced through daily practice.
The eight-fold path
“The body is your temple of spirit”, says Patanjali. Without a healthy and stable body, we cannot follow our life´s passion. He doesn´t only refer to a trained body, instead the body channels should be “cleaned” (nose, ear, mouth, intestine), breath work enhances the overall spirit and the work with our sense leads to less attachment to our feelings, which are the immediate reaction to the senses. Patanjali describes these eight steps in order to bring your body and mind in unison.
Yamas – how you treat the environment (and all life on earth)
Niyamas – how you treat yourself (self-discipline and spiritual observance)
Asanas – how you treat your body (practice the postures, discipline)
Pranayama – how to regulate the breath (breath work or breath control)
Pratyahara – how to work with the senses (detachment from our senses)
Dharana – concentration (working with the distractions of the mind)
Dhyana – meditation (or contemplation; the uninterrupted flow of concentration)
Samadhi – Higher self or enlightenment
Overall, these “techniques” or tasks should bring us more concentration to gain access to a deeper state of meditation or contemplation. Only a clear and undistracted mind in a balanced body is able to rest in contemplation for a longer period of time and follow the path to Samadhi.
But what about the shape of the pose?
Doing Yoga only for the shape of the pose and a beautiful picture is attachment and has zero value. The same refers to trying to follow the Yogic path only to find your Higher Self by all means (like checking our list of “things to achieve in this life”).
“The root of suffering is attachment.”, is a famous Buddha quote.
If you get obsessed in the shape of your physical body or the idea of becoming a better person only because you are doing asanas, mediate regularly or have added some breath work here and there, you are not doing Yoga. You are attached to the idea of being a Yogi, but far from experiencing the real beauty of it.
Yoga is not the picture of you depicted by the outside world, it is your picture of yourself, from the inside out.
“Enlightenment is when a wave realized it is the ocean.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
You cannot “achieve Samadhi” – you have to experience it. Maybe, at some point in your life. Only a few Yogis have experienced it, but following the eight-limb path will definitely help you master your life. In an authentic and natural way.
My Yoga path started with the practicing asanas and the perseverance to continue. I was taken along by beautiful pictures, but soon I realized, that I have to disconnect from “the shape of the pose” and look behind the scenes. I started meditating and dove deeper into the ancient scripts of Yoga. I learned that Yoga is more than a simple way to exercise, above all, it´s an attitude towards life. The more you internalize it in your daily actions, the more compassionate and kinder you treat yourself and others.
First of all, you have to detach from the outcome, let it be the shape of the pose or the idea of enlightenment. You just follow the path to live a purposeful life, day by day.
“You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Patanjali: Indian sage and Yogi, who wrote the Yoga Sutras, a classic yoga text about Yoga theory and practice.