Yoga as a relationship
Yoga is about creating a relationship with all beings — including yourself. By Bryony Giboin
Yoga has become a household name. Once thought of as a practice of the hippies (and not in a positive way!), yoga is now a mainstream commercialised practice to ‘get fit’ — though that’s not really what it’s about.
If we look to teachings found in the Hathayogapradapika (one of the last remaining texts of Hatha Yoga) then yes, the physical asana (postural) practice was there to cleanse the body of impurities forcefully and with great discipline and effort. But the goal of this 15th century manual is not about the external being, but reaching a state of Samadhi, or bliss.
Throughout my own yoga teaching and practice, I absolutely love to challenge the body and, in turn, the mind. I teach a dynamic class building up the heat (tapas) in the body as I personally love to sweat, to feel that I have had a physical, bodily burn and my classes reflect this. However, I also emphasise and express through words more to my students than just physical postures, and I do my best to teach yoga off the mat and into the world.
The word ‘yoga’ is the root word for the English word ‘yoke’, to bind or join, which is the most contemporary meaning. Yoga has many more meanings — but what are we joining ? Some say its the breath into the bodily movements, the yoking of the fluctuating mind which is to be brought to stillness, the joining of the lower mind with the higher mind. But for today I want to share the idea that yoga is the joining of yourself to your true Self as you create a relationship to truth.
"Yoga teaches us to bind each moment with intimacy and truth."
I started my journey into the world of yoga at 17 as I was told by my dance teacher it had made her students more flexible. I thought “Wow awesome, sign me up” which, in retrospect, is hilarious, as I was perhaps one of the most hyper-mobile students in my class of 100! Whatever the reason, I’m always grateful for my ego at this point which did draw me to this teaching. It wasn’t until a good five years of dabbling in the practice that one day it clicked. One day, in the midst of battling depression and a list of ‘dis-ease’ in my being, I suddenly had this intimacy with myself, exactly where I was in the moment. Not through a reflection in the mirror, or through the inner critique or through the eyes of the expecting human, but an intimacy of how I was feeling in that exact moment from the truth of where I was.
A feeling from the inside out, not the outside in. I knew this practice was something much deeper than a physical practice at this point.
Through the process of Viveka (discernment) we are able to dissolve the illusions of the mind that keep us locked in a state of Dukha (suffering). We are taught so many things about what we ‘should’ look like, how we ‘should’ feel and what kind of life we ‘should’ be living. But all of this is a social conditioning and a labelling of ideas that have been placed upon us and then we have chosen to believe as truth. As we arrive on our mat and move through our physical practice, can we start to notice our habits, from a place of Svadhyaha (self-study) without judgement or labels, just intimately meeting the moment as it is.
From this open explorative mindset we can connect into the truth of where we are in that moment. If we fall in a balance, we can learn to fall with love and acceptance; when we see that perhaps our mind is grasping for a different result, it's not a failure to ‘notice’ this or to see that perhaps you find yourself judging the outcome, but it’s how to choose to react that is important. This is the relationship. If we choose to critique or get angry or whatever it is that arises for you, let it come in the shape it needs to form, but then reflect on how this is a reaction that you will form in your day life.
Falling in a balance can reflect falling outside the mat, not in the sense that you fell over, but not achieving the goal you had pre-set in your mind. I know, for me, there was no such flexibility in my life to fall, and this created so much suffering for myself. The expectations I had on myself created an unachievable grasping that would leave me suffocating.
Through constant practice of letting go and changing this mindset I have been able to first of all laugh when I fall in a balance, find a lighter outcome, notice that a moment is a moment and that I need to fall so that I can learn how to do things right in the next moment.
I created a loving relationship with who I am on the inside on a daily basis not who I think I should be from the eyes of the world.
By meeting each moment with a pure mind, I have created space, love and freedom. It is a continued practice and it will be I’m sure for the rest of my life.
Yoga is more than creating a desirable or flexible body, it is creating a relationship with all beings — starting with the relationship to yourself as you intimately approach each moment as it is.