Updated: May 28
I hated physical education in school. I sucked at every single ball sport, I sucked at track and field. I could not run fast.
I was very much in my head. I liked sitting in my tiny room, reading and writing and listening to music. I had a hardcore sweet tooth, and ate sacks of pick'n'mix candy. But I never seemed to put on much weight.
But in my late teens I begun to have severe and debilitating back pain. That's when I realized that I probably should start to do something. It dawned on me that exercise might not just be about staying thin.
After some years of dabbling in swimming, aerobics (yup, I'm really THAT old) , karate and good old circle training, I found yoga.
Or did yoga find me?
I tried a few different schools in New York City, where I lived at the time, until I found the one studio that had me hooked.
And now looking in the rearview mirror, I'm not entirely sure what it was that kept me coming back. But I am guessing it was about the taste of silence in my mind when I was trying to pretzel my body into a strange shape while maintaining a deep breath. And the feeling of letting go, as I rested my bones on for a few minutes of allotted savasana. And the feeling of being 'yoga-stoned' afterwards. These tiny little moments of letting go that happened. Those moments of getting in touch with the stillness beyond the chatter or the mind, those nano-seconds of physical letting go got stitched together, and begun to slowly but surely grant me greater psychological freedom.
Back then I would not have been able to articulate this. I just knew, that yoga was good for me and that I would keep doing it.
Some would say that it's because of 'good karma' that we come in contact with these teachings. I am pondering the meaning of karma and reincarnation in these teachings, but I don't have any set beliefs about it.
But for me, it's quite clear that the core or yoga is, as stipulated in Sutra 1.2 Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah. Yoga is to still the fluctuations (thoughts, concepts, judgements, memories, future tripping) of the mind.
And when we make that happen, we begin to see reality as it truly is: boundless.
Aldous Huxley put it another way: 'If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite.'
This is where all spiritual teachings ultimately points to: Learning to get in touch with the blissed out spaciousness that is much bigger than the mind (ego, psyche, stories -- whatever we choose to call it).
Some people get there spontaneously (good karma?). Most of us have to employ methods and work hard for a long time. One such method is called YOGA. There are many others.
And the method called yoga contains many aspects and techniques. For me the foremost ones being ethics and meditation. Trying to live a life that is good for oneself and good for others, and training one's mind. That's the core of yoga, the way I see it.
Photo: Cameron Venti via UNSPLASH