It is frequently said that there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to do Yoga. While some may think that getting hurt is ‘wrong’ and others may consider feeling good ‘right,’ Yoga is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong.’ Ironically, we rarely think of our way as being ‘wrong’; though, we may not necessarily think we are doing it ‘right.’ In effect, by naming and categorizing we unintentionally perpetuate societal roles that are confusing and divisive.
When we get caught in this ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ mentality, we divide the yoga community into opposing groups and miss an integral part of the practice of Yoga – being human in the unique experience of our bodies.
Even before we are born, our individual roles have already been determined by a combination of science, religion, philosophy and government. Presumably, one intention behind this was to help organize masses of people to live a better life, but by assuming the roles others have defined for us, our uniqueness of being human has become ever-increasingly ignored. But there is good news. We have a chance to change these presumptions that essentially neglect the body and malign people against each other.
The practice of Yoga implies a present state of being. It suggests a subject in action. While dynamic in practice, this act is frequently accompanied by a thought that inherently defines and describes the act. The moment that we start to describe something we are no longer in a present state. Therefore, I would re-frame this act of practicing Yoga as an experience. Instead of us doing Yoga or taking a class, how about being Yoga, or specifically, being a pose?
In being a pose, we experience something that is neither right nor wrong. We relinquish our self judgments, shame, and guilt that is always associated with this mentality. We learn, implicitly, to let go of our chatter. “I hate this pose.” “Ooh, I love this class.” “Ugh, I don’t want to practice today.” “I can’t do that.” “Yay, I finally got up in handstand.” “Great playlist.” “That was easy.” These are reflections that pull us away from being in a present state. A pose may feel good. A pose may hurt us. We may sweat. We may struggle. We may become angry and we may be joyful. But these are just a few words describing an experience; it is not the experience. These descriptors are a trick of our mind that hold us back. In being a pose, we overcome the judgements and expectations we have been told or learned to accept.
In being a pose, our mind will not need to navigate the culturally defined societal roles. Perhaps that is why most poses are named after geometric shapes, nature, animals, sages, or warriors – being something other than what we have been told. Geometry defines the triangle as a perfectly stable shape. Religious texts often describe a sage or prophet as omniscient. An historian might define a warrior as courageously seeking change. The sun gives light and warmth and energy. The moon pulls on the vast ocean tides. And those who take care of animals may define their pet as a friend, companion, or family member to unconditionally love.
We can never define the veracity of a pose, but we surely can experience it.
In being a pose, we stop defining the practice and begin to experience it. We are no longer doing something; but, instead, we are being something. We are no longer concerned about limits, and though they exist, we begin to experience the limitlessness of our bodies. Our embodiment in the world takes over. Ideological rules dissipate. We stop thinking and we forget about the roles passed on from previous generations. We begin to truly learn what is to experience our unique bodies without judgement, shame or guilt.
When I opened LYFE Yoga over 13 years ago, one of my intentions was to provide the South Bay Community an opportunity to break away from these societal forces that enforce strict rules of how we are ‘supposed’ to live or feel. Together, we have chosen what seems to be an uncommon path. Our Studio stands uniquely different. In this place, I honor the uniqueness in our being human and offer the Community a chance to explore these notions of humanness. Reflective in the physical yoga space I designed, we create a chance to cultivate those things found beyond the’right’ and ‘wrong.’ We challenge what has been said. We question what has been done. We strive to steadily work at rising above the sound and the fury, the shiny objects, the constraints that others have put upon us – to witness what it means to be human – being a pose.
This post was written by Michael Ruccolo