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Savasana Blog

Nurture the True Spirit of Yoga

Do you know the story of the “Blind Men and the Elephant?”

It’s a traditional Indian story about a group of blind men who’ve never encountered an elephant before. They learn what the elephant is like by touching it.

One man puts his hand on the elephant's side and says, “Now I know all about an elephant, he’s just like a wall.”

The second man feels the elephant's tusk and responds, “No, you’re mistaken. He's not at all like a wall. He's more like a spear."

The third man takes hold of the elephant's trunk and argues, “You’re both wrong, an elephant is like a snake."

The fourth man takes hold of the elephant's ear and says, “You’re all wrong, he's like a huge fan."

The fifth man grabs hold of the elephant’s tail and concludes, “He’s not any of those things, he’s like a rope."

This story illustrates the tendency to make false assumptions based on a limited perspective. I also think it can apply to how we think about the true spirit of yoga. Like the elephant, the true spirit of yoga can be described in so many ways depending on your vantage point.

Yoga is a tremendously rich and deep tradition of practices, understandings, and perspectives. The common goal of all the wonderfully diverse expressions of yoga is the same. Which is to recognize a core of unchanging awareness within us that transcends the limited nature of our body-mind, and to allow this experience to change the way we see ourselves and live our lives.

Given this goal of yoga, what makes the physical practice we do in yoga more than just a set of exercises?

In my experience, it's 2 things:

  1. Develops your capacity for self-reflection

  2. Incorporating yoga philosophy into your practices on the mat and your everyday life.

This is when yoga expands into a journey of inner evolution and personal growth. In other words, yoga isn’t just what you do, it's how you reflect on what you do and how you contextualize your experience within the principles and teachings of yoga philosophy that allows you to nurture yoga’s true spirit.

It’s seeing yoga not just as something you show up for an hour or two each week, but as an opportunity to be in relationship with yourself —your body, breath, and mind - a relationship you can take into your everyday life.

Many of us might start practicing yoga for a simple reason of physical and/or mental health benefits. However after a while, we begin to discover that yoga is so much more than we might have initially thought.

For example, if you start practicing yoga to help you manage stress, you’ll be introduced to a variety of physical postures, breath exercises, and awareness-based techniques.

By practicing them and reflecting on their effects, you’ll be able to assess what is working for you and do more of that and in the process, you’ll also develop greater self-knowledge.

Furthermore, by learning about how the yoga tradition views the human being, you’ll discover the principles underlying the practices you are doing. You’ll gain insight into why yogic practices are effective at managing stress. In this way, you’ll enrich your understanding and be able to amplify the benefits of yoga in your daily life.

My experience is that as we reflect on the practice and learn about principles of yoga philosophy, we start to recognize how and why yoga changes us for the better. We might also begin to expand our ideas of what yoga can be about and the many ways it can serve and support us in our daily lives.

For example, I have a student who initially came to yoga to manage back pain. He became a committed, once-a-week yoga practitioner.

Reflecting on his yoga practice, he shared the following:

He learned that his body is not just a tool for him to perform in the world, but the precious repository of a dimension of LIFE. Yoga brings me back to my unique core self and opens me up to what is bigger than me.

Like this person discovered, with the right perspective you can tap into vast and exciting possibilities for how your practice can serve you in your life.

In my yoga classes you will leave with tools to enrich your yoga practice and how it can serve you in your daily life.

If you’re interested in broadening the bandwidth of what your yoga practice can be about, you are welcome to attend my studio and experience an enlightening yoga practice that you can take anywhere in your life. 💗

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