I can’t believe April is winding down and May will be here in just a few days! Since we almost split this week between April and May I am choosing to write about my reflections of yoga these past few months.
I’ve been putting a lot of focus on the philosophy of yoga and I love this side. Patanjali gives us this self-help book of inquiry (book of sutras), offering to us what yoga is, how to do yoga, what yoga can do for you, and what yoga does, all while asking, “what do you think”. I’m paraphrasing here as none of the translations I have read said, “what do you think. If you read them and try what the sutras suggest you might just find yourself asking “what do I think” and agreeing that it works. The sutras work for me. Putting them into practice and finding a balance between doing them the way I interpret them to be done and the way they wind up working out. These yamas and niyamas are sutras – each one on their own, but as we can see, they work very well together.
The other side I love is the scientific side. Anatomy, kinesiology, physics, psychology and how they apply and work with the yoga. Over the past few years, I have done a lot of research on how the body works, how it moves, why it moves the way it does. The research is rapidly changing and being updated and I believe it’s a fascinating time to be learning this information. However, the more I put into practice what I’m learning the more I realize how it all connects together.
One of the words I use in yoga class is proprioception. It means knowing where you are in space. I teach this when I ask us to close our eyes in tree pose and we still are aware that we are in tree pose – one foot on the inside of the other leg and arms above head or at heart or wherever they are. This is an important sensory receptor that we need to have in order to be aware of our body and where we fit in our environment. If we have a lack of these sensors it can show up as not knowing our own strength, pushing a door open and slamming it into the wall, or not knowing how heavy something is and reaching for it and dropping it.
The other part of this is interoception. This means understanding how you feel and where you feel it. Have you ever been asked in a yoga class, “notice where you feel this?” Or as my meditation teacher and friend, Aurora Hutchinson always inquires after she asks how I’m doing, “where do you feel that?”. Knowing how we feel and where we feel it can be two separate things. Knowing where we feel what we feel has great benefit. It can connect us to our bodies and help to heal pain and trauma as well as embracing joy and love. Those lacking in these sensory receptors can’t tell if they are hungry, thirsty, hot or cold or have a lack of body awareness. Those with high interoception may feel anxiety, for example, if you could hear your heart beating all day long or were so body aware of everything happening in your body it might make you feel overwhelmed.
Both are necessary and important in yoga. Not all of us are arriving the same to class and the asanas are not a one size fits all. While some of us need more grounding, some may need to go more inward. It’s a balance. I think when we can use even this one concept, we can apply the sutras and ask ourselves, “what do you think?”
The yamas and niyamas are just one small piece of the yoga philosophy, just like proprioception and interoception are just a small piece of biomechanics. And even in these two small pieces, we fulfill hours of learning. Each time I learn or relearn and apply to yoga I remember how everything is a balance.
Thanks for reading,