How Yoga Works

While what draws people to the practice of yoga is often a physical experience, yoga is essentially a spiritual journey. It is a quest for meaning, a search for an answer, and perhaps both meaning and answer together. More than anything else yoga is the promise of peace. With the simple act of getting on your mat every day you can slowly shift the arc of your life from drama and suffering to peace and happiness.

Yoga works by first bringing your consciousness back into your body. Now, you may be thinking, where is my consciousness if it’s not in my body. Certainly you are “here” but in many ways you are not here. By the sheer act of living we encounter a series of personal and cultural experiences that take us outside of our bodies. We learn through life to tune out, zone out and escape. Most often this happens because the act of facing reality is overwhelming due to some personal trauma, perhaps sexual, physical, psychological, environmental, or political. When things go wrong we have a very strong pull to leave the discomfort of the experience. This creates a sort dis-embodied consciousness which over time becomes our new normal. The first step in the journey towards peace isn’t about instantly being peaceful. You can’t cook up peace like instant noodles. You have to let it simmer for awhile. The first step on the yoga path is about bringing your consciousness back into your body. There, in the quiet space of the inner world, you begin to familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. You get to feel all those body parts that have been cut off and you get to face all those thoughts that are buried.

The body itself is a vast and infinite reservoir of feeling, memory and thought. Disconnecting from the body and walking through life in a zombie-like state ensures that you will not live up to your full potential as a human being. The unfelt body is closely related to the un-lived life. The poses, known in Sanskrit, as asanas, are the foundation of experience. They are not meant to be goals in and of themselves The poses are merely a tool to help you feel your body. Once you wake up to the ocean of sensations that lie just under the surface of your skin, your whole world changes.

Think back to a moment when you felt truly happy. Often accomplishments and achievements can leave you hollow if they are not connected to a deeper truth. Most often people remember a time when their bodies and minds are in unity. Walking on the beach with only the sound of the waves, that first moment when your child is born, sitting in a forest as the breeze blows by, or even traveling home in the quiet of your personal space. All of these examples have at their basis the unity of body and mind. What defines happiness isn’t the accumulation of things or goals, but a more subtle sense of being that can only be achieved through an inner path.

Yoga is a promise of peace. It is not a promise of a really good headstand. Along the journey you may have some fun twisting and bending your body into shapes. Don’t get lost in the physical. Bring your attention back to the deeper path and let the practice set you free.

By Kino Macgregor

Leave a Reply