Yes, being complimented on your yoga body can feel really good… and you get a little rush that people are noticing. I had what you’d call a “yoga body” in my younger years. In fact, back in the day I practiced a lot of yoga, not for the physical fitness aspect but in order to try to settle my chattering mind and the disruptive emotions that went with it.
Only, it didn’t really help. I looked good but it didn’t do much for releasing me from the grip of my incessant thoughts. And I bring this up because I see a lot of this very thing in my emotional recovery work with groups. People will report that they’ve been practicing yoga for years but have had little success in calming their minds.
And in order to understand why this is, we have to understand the way classic Eastern yoga was intended to be practiced, which is far different than how it’s popularized in the West. In fact, the word “yoga” has a far different meaning in the West than the way it’s set forth in yogic science in the East.
In the East, the term “yoga” is an umbrella term for a collection, if you will, of steps – called the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The idea is to move through those steps to eventually arrive at enlightenment, which is essentially staying in the present moment indefinitely. Being in awareness, right here, right now – not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Right here. Always. That’s enlightenment.
So yogic science sets forth a whole system called the eight limbs of yoga, where “yoga” means the union of mind, body and soul. We Westerners, on the other hand, have pulled out just one part of that system… which we know as yoga. But the yoga we know is just a very small slice of that whole ancient yogic system. Follow me?
For the most part, the “yoga” we know since popularized in the ’60’s, is mostly a fitness workout rather than a spiritual belief system. So that’s why so many who only focus on the yoga practices – called asanas – didn’t or aren’t gaining what they desire … that is training their mind to navigate in calm, centered, clarity – free of emotional strife.
I’m not going to go through the steps in the 8 limbs of Yoga right now, but I just want to talk about how the asanas – the practices, fit into the overall yogic system. The asanas, those practices that we generalize as Yoga, is just a component written about in ancient texts to give guidance on how to make the body strong and healthy.
Now there’s nothing wrong with doing that Western version of yoga as it increases wellness in the body and mind. But, under this ancient mind training, then we need to take it to the next step and that is the breathwork – that we know in the Eight Limbs of Yoga as pranayama. Pranayama is breath control.
Yoga theory says that breath is the way we interact with the subtle life force energy that surrounds us. When we’re able to make breathing a regular mindful practice, we’re able to invigorate our bodies with this life force and change the way that our central nervous system reacts to stress.
By doing these breathing exercises regularly you can get really well connected with your breath and learn how to control the different flows of energy in your nervous system, in your brain, in your mind. And when you’re able to do that, you can bring yourself into a state of deep meditation that leads to the deep realization of your authentic self – free of difficult emotions, pounding and ruminating thoughts.
And of course, in my emotions courses, I take people into this next step of self-realization and awakening. And, if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I believe that psilocybin microdosing and the judicious use of cannabis support this deep inner work. The plant medicines are tools to facilitate expanding your consciousness. And my students agree with this… I encourage you to go to BeccaWilliams.org and take a look at what participants are saying. Do you have some thoughts about your practice? What’s been your experience with what I’m talking about? Yoga and meditation. Drop down to the comments section and let me know.
I’m Becca Williams and I truly want you to lead your most magnificent life and I want to help you do that.