This is a place to talk about the touchier topics in life…so I’m going to start with a disclaimer that I love any and all yoga practices, regardless of what brought you here or to your mat. I would never cast shame on someone trying to take care of their body and overall health. I truly believe yoga is for everyone regardless of goals and intentions. I am in no way passing judgments, just sharing my thoughts and trying to spark yours! Here’s what I think: the western world has taken yoga and turned it into a health fad. And THANK GOD. Truly, thank God, because I never would have found yoga if it was a better kept secret. Thank God it’s so accessible and popular. Thank God so many people are being exposed to these teachings. Yoga is yoga is yoga….alright ready for the tougher sh**?
Probably the #1 reason people begin a yoga practice is for some physical purpose – gain mobility, flexibility, lose weight, get stronger, have a six pack, etc. And the #2 is probably a mental or emotional gain like reduce stress, increase focus & energy, etc. These are GREAT. But side effects. And in my opinion, these are often (but not always!!) distractions. Distractions from being there.
Here’s my question. Why does it feel like we need some benefit to point at to do things? Not all things. Just hard things.
So yoga has been a tradition for 4500 years probably more. Eating cookies during the holidays has been one for a while too. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but there is absolutely no physical benefit to eating cookies. Regardless, people eat cookies on Christmas and then google yoga to make sure it will benefit them. They read and say “Ooo I should try that. I need to stretch more. My low back has been killing.”
Why are there no online articles convincing me to eat cookies on Christmas? Why do I already know I need to do that?
What else? Meditation has been around for a very long time. But it’s not big until it’s considered part of some list of shit successful (the rich kind of successful) people do. “How Meditation Benefits CEOs”, “7 Ways Meditation can Physically Change the Brain”, “Quit Coffee with Meditation”, “How Meditation Improved my Workouts”, “Less Migraines with Meditation”, “Grow Your Circle of Influence with Meditation”…. these are all articles online. MindBodyGreen even claims meditation makes men last longer in bed…I’m not saying any of this is untrue or negative. And I love that people are motivated to meditate…but isn’t meditation supposed to pull us out of the physical? To connect us with God, love, prana, the force, the universe or whatever name it goes by to you?
Dude, why are we all so stuck in this physical world? We can’t sit down for 10 minutes without needing it to improve our human experience. We’re here for what, 90 years if we’re lucky? OK cool, make it a great 90 years where you make a lot of money, have kickass workouts, and last as long as you want in bed. And be able to scientifically back up everything you do. Do that. Then what? What did that mean?
I ask all of this because I’m guilty of it. I hear of something, then ask but what does that do for me? How do I benefit from that? Especially when I began diving deep into yoga and reading about some of the things the sages did. Sleeping on nails, sitting for years while their skin rotted and was eaten by rats, ingesting and digesting long strands of fabric. WHY? What is the health benefit to that?
And you know what makes all of this harder? There are physical benefits to yoga and meditation. TONS. IT’S SO DAMN GOOD FOR OUR BODIES. Same to many of the things I’ve been asked lately. Why do you smudge? Why do you wear crystals? Why do you pray? Why do you oil pull? Why do you fast? Why should I do yoga? Why should I meditate? The purposes are easy to think of and easy to talk about. Even though our questions have valid, health-industry-valuable answers (unlike some traditions, like cookies), I wish we didn’t have to ask them all the time.
What if we did things just because? Because they’re sacred, because they’re special. Or maybe we can’t explain it but it just must be done. Like eating cookies at a holiday party. I don’t know why I have to. It doesn’t help anything, in fact, science shows it hurts things. But damn it, I’m going to and it’s going to be tasty and Christmas-y and I’d be sad if I didn’t.
What if we didn’t have to reach into our scientific knowledge (that is so vast and awesome) to keep sacred traditions? Maybe there could be a trust there, even stronger than a trust, maybe there’s a call.
No answers as usual. I don’t have many. But I’ll conclude.
Ask not what your higher being can do for your human experience but what your human experience can do for your higher being.
Have a great holiday. Eat cookies & meditate because you want to.