Sunday, April 28, 2013

What does it feel like? The "it" being Yoga: Vinyasa Yoga Book Club Schiffmann #4

When I read the title, “What does it feel like?” I have to admit ... I kind of, sort of, maybe rolled my eyes just a little.  Come on Schiffmann!, I thought, if you say feeling-tone again ...  

While I’ve enjoyed Schiffmann’s book immensely, there have been moments when the flowery language almost got the best of me.  And I really thought this chapter might have sent me over the edge.

Boy was I wrong.  Not only did I love this chapter (perhaps every sentence is underlined), I walked away with language on how to answer the slippery question “what does yoga feel like?”.  It’s a legitimate question, and here are his answers:

Yoga Feels like ...

  1. Stretching your body after a really long train or airplane ride.
  2. Standing up after sitting hunched at your desk furiously typing for eight hours straight.
  3. Taking a deep, long yawn and stretch first thing in the morning (you know, that yawn that starts deep inside - as if you were stretching from the inside out?).
  4. Going through your garden and pulling out those big weeds (and as you practice more, you have to weed less and less).
  5. Learning something familiar, as if you already knew it.

    But remember. This is what yoga feels like, it isn’t what yoga is.  Schiffmann points out that yoga itself is much more deliberate and purposeful.  He describes the asana (AAH-SUH-NAH) practice like this:

“The various asanas are actually very precise tools. ... a specific shape or template in which the stretching occurs.  The idea is to use these tools or shapes to help create more space in your body.  Your body is the visible and tangible portion of your energy field, and each pose is like a map into a specific area of that field.  ... Using the various poses as maps into yourself, or places to look, you then endeavor to stretch, open, and release contracted areas.  ... using the pose as both map and tool, you deliberately explore yourself, looking for tight, sore or painful areas within yourself.  You look for them so you can erase them.”

But why start a regular practice if yawning and stretching, be it imprecise, can provide you that lovin’ feeling?  Isn’t that releasing enough tension?  

While it’s great to spontaneously move into that delicious sensation of stretching after a long trip or all-nighter at work, it will not increase your conscious ability to relieve tension, to remain balanced in the face of challenge, nor to integrate that unconscious movement in a conscious, meaningful way.  
Yoga takes that unconscious wisdom latent in our body and makes that wisdom conscious.  Our job is to integrate this wisdom into our daily life.

“As you immerse yourself regularly in the experience of yoga, you realize you are “undergoing a deep cleansing and healing, and that you are truly making yourself more radiant, but your outlook on life is changing.  You’ll find yourself being different, and as a consequence, you’ll understand the world and everyone differently, too.  More importantly though you’ll realize you are not becoming different... you’re becoming who you’ve always been.  You’re consciously “becoming” the genuine, authentic you. ... This is radical!  It’s not just “feeling good” - and it’s not just physical.”  

While many of us first experience yoga as a physical practice, it doesn’t take long to realize that the benefits extend far beyond the physical plane.  Yoga teaches us how to gently shift our perspective, to move away from the selfish, tormented mind into a connected and healing experience.  “Yoga will help you to “embrace a bigger sense of who you are.  As you embrace the fullness of yourself without inhibition of apology, you will be able more fully to participate in the world in a constructive and meaningful way.”

Get your yoga on daily - and love the life you live.  That’s a great feeling if you ask me.


Try getting the "yoga feeling" for yourself. Most likely you’re reading this post at your computer or sitting awkwardly with your favorite digital device.  Stop reading.  Look away from the screen at the first beautiful color that catches your eye.  Take a deep, exhilarating breath.  Literally inspire yourself.  Reach your arms overhead and perhaps initiate a yawn.  Watch how at first the yawn is forced and then takes on a life of its own, form deep in your belly and finally vibrating off your skin.  What does that feel like?  Yoga perhaps?  Schiffmann believes so.

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