Matthew Remski is a teacher and blogger currently studying the question of what we are doing in asana, as the yoga world has exploded with news of serious injuries rampant among teachers and dedicated students. Just as the number of studies of the positive impacts of yoga are being recognized in the broader outside world, on the inside - we seem to be doing it wrong, if so many of us are living in broken, pain-wracked bodies.
The simple truth is, I don't practice that way because I don't like pain, and I'll do whatever I need to do to live free of it. And I believe I'm more like most people than many of the other subjects of Matthew's study so far.
I don't practice asana to get better at asana.
I practice asana to feel better.
There has always been the type of person who explores the farthest edges of what the human body can experience or endure, and we’re grateful for that, because we can learn a lot from those people. But they are not everyone.
Unfortunately, they have taught us how to think about our yoga practice through their lens, and obviously lots of people are suffering for it. It’s the same in most physical disciplines – athletes set the terms. But athletes are another unique type of person, competitive, willing to endure pain to achieve goals, and most people do not classify themselves that way.
Most people just want to feel good.
And the yoga sutras are very clear that this is the goal of asana: II:46 Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.
In his translation of the sutras, Sri Swami Satchidananda writes about the healthy, tension free body, “The moment we sit down for meditation in such a body, we’ll forget it.”
I expand that concept into all day, every day life. How can we fulfill our dharma if we cannot forget the body? If we are in pain, we can’t forget our body and have a good day, live a good life, be happy and productive and kind. When we are in pain, our lives become small and depressed. When we stand in the closet for 45 minutes in the morning fussing about what to wear, we are not forgetting our body. When we starve ourselves or work out obsessively to achieve an unhealthy societal expectation of what our bodies should be, we are not forgetting our bodies. Our bad food, bad air, bad water, and reliance on chemicals make it impossible to forget our bodies; they are riddled with dis-ease and discomfort. And without question, the obsession with achieving more and more extreme postures in our asana practice and enduring brutal, life-altering injuries in the search for wellbeing is not forgetting the body.
The goal of asana is to create a body that feels great and works great so you can be a good person and do good in the world.
If it hurts, it means stop.
100% of the time.
What is Yoga?
In the yoga industry, there is a lot of debate about that question, and what we can and should be doing as teachers of this ancient art and science. There are slick modern yoga brands (both clothing and style) and traditionalist yoga brands and everything in between. From hip hop to holy roller, 70,000+ teachers, all with something to offer.