This is a question which I have deliberated over for a long time …
Let’s think about the goal of Yoga – Moksha – which is Enlightenment/Liberation/Release …How does standing on my Head achieve this?
Have you ever tried to sit in Meditation? To keep the body still and then try and still the mind – Its hard! The more you try and switch off the mind and focus on the breath the more the mind wanders and chatters! How about when you try and stand on one leg? What is it that you do in order to find your balance and hold it? – you find a focal point, you clear your mind, you focus on your breathing – you concentrate! You know that as soon as you start to think about other things you are going to wobble and fall!
This is ultimately the answer to the question – we use the physical postures as a tool to clear and steady the mind.
Let’s look at this further … Lets take Crow Pose (arm balance), Half Moon (Standing Balance) and Headstand (Inversion) and think about the skills we need to execute these more challenging postures.
You will be given lots of different teaching points when you are learning how to master these postures. You will be guided by the teacher as to where to put each of your different body parts, how to distribute your weight, which parts of the body to rotate in order to enable yourself to come into these postures. But the most important teaching point, which stems across all these postures, is to focus the mind on the breath. It is this concentration which will allow you to not only come into the posture but to hold it.
Like with everything the more you practice this skill the better you will get at it.
You will then start to find that you can transfer this skill into your seated Meditation or Relaxation, you will start to focus on the breath, slow it down and eventually steady the mind.
This is then when the magic really happens… You start to transfer this skill into your everyday life. You begin to approach situations with peace, a sense of calm and clarity. You bring yourself into the present moment. You start to understand what everyone is talking about when they say ‘yoga changed my life’ because it actually does!
You may come to Yoga for many reasons, but by focusing on this ultimate goal you will find that you build strength in the body, you become leaner and fitter, you reduce anxiety and stress levels, you create space within the body, you learn to control the breath, you relieve tightness, stress and tension within the body.
So when people ask you ‘What style of Yoga do you practice?’ Your answer is ‘I practice Yoga’
The ‘style’ which we have become so fixated on is just how we execute the physical postures. The essence of Yoga does not change regardless of whether you are in seated Meditation, Savasana, Headstand, Crow Pose or flowing dynamically through a Vinyasa.
If you can be at peace with yourself in a ‘restorative’ posture you have achieved what most are aiming for when they are bouncing through postures without any control or focus.
If the ‘dynamic’ postures are your tool to finding that stillness (they are mine) then that is great as long as you don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and you practice the postures that you can only achieve by steadying the mind and controlling the breath.