THE PURPOSE OF YOGA PRAGMATICALLY

ARTICLE BY GODFRI DEVEREUX.
 The purpose of yoga pragmatically, according to Patanjali is to free the body from tension  (ii.47) and establish it in stiram sukam (ii.46), establish it in joyful steadiness, or establish it in tranquil stability.Tranquil stability or joyful steadiness means obviously no tension. So, in order to arrive in stiram sukam the body must be free from tension relative to that shape. Relative to that form. Each one of those hundreds of yoga posture forms, each one of those shapes addressing itself to the potentiality of tension in the body in a unique and different way. 

So each one of those forms being a unique opportunity to release tension from the body.

 Because most of the forms, not all of the forms, but most of the forms are to one degree or another unnatural, meaning not impossible, not outside the capacity of the human body but just not usual, not used by most people in their lives. Ok, some people, gymnasts athletes dancers acrobats more so, but even so, still there’s a huge range of forms or shapes amongst the yoga postures that bear very little relationship to the way that you normally use the body and therefore can be a direct and successful invitation for tension to enter the body if they’re not approached with care and integrity and understanding.So if you’re doing a posture such as Warrior pose where you turn the trunk forward, bend the front leg, stretch the arms up and look up, if this is not done with care and understanding it will develop tension in the inter-vertebral spaces in the lower back in the neck and in the shoulders and rather than the yoga posture being good for you it becomes bad for you. Even if it´s developing your stamina.

Even if it’s developing your concentration.

Even if it’s developing your determination, it’s still being bad for your back, bad for your neck.

So precision in the articulation of the body into the shapes or precision in the expression of form becomes your fundamental way of securing not only the effectiveness of the yoga postures, but also their safety. You could look at the form of the body in a posture and consider angles and relationships between planes and relationships between line as if the body was a geometrical arrangement of lines. But this is not very helpful simply because every single person’s body has a unique pattern of tension, has a unique pattern of limitation or a unique pattern of potential or capability and even though you could say that each posture has its inherently perfect line that perfect line exists only for a body free from tension and if your body is not free from tension then the perfect line is not available and trying to impose the perfect line or the perfect shape on your body is an invitation to tension.

That means looking for the line or establishing the form of a posture has to be an enquiry, it has to be a self enquiry, Svadhyaya, it has to be an investigation of what your potentiality is, what your capability is right now. Without regard to what your capability was yesterday and without regard to what you would like your capability to be. So this means that everybody to a certain extent lines themselves up slightly differently. But the basic shape of the posture in order for it to be that posture must still be there. In other words in Virabhadrasana nobody should be bending the back leg, even if that means you can only bend the front leg one degree. The bending of the front leg is not the point of Virabhadrasana. The point of Virabhadrasana is what’s happening in the whole body. And if the back leg is bending the lower back is under stress. The lower back is being compromised and probably damaged. The damage doesn’t become obvious until perhaps a few years later. And then it’s obvious that it wasn’t from Virabhadrasana, it was because somebody pushed you over or you fell off your bicycle or whatever. This is not necessarily the case. Perhaps you fell over because you damaged your back in Virabhadrasana and the integrity of the spinal muscles was lost.

So even though the description given of the movements to be taken refers to a shape, you could say a geometrical pattern, exactly where you go, exactly how you express that, exactly how you accommodate your limitations to that depends on you. Patañjali has given you a compass to guide you. And that compass is stiram sukam. That compass is steadiness, stability, groundedness and comfort, ease, release. And that steadiness stiram, ease sukam applies to the body as a whole, to the shape as a whole, to the form as a whole and to every single part of it. So if one part is not stable the whole cannot be comfortable. If one part is not comfortable the whole cannot be stable. So stiram sukam has to be applied throughout your awareness of the whole of the form of the body in the form of the posture. And even though the postures are many your addressing of yourself to the form of the body in the form of the postures is always basically the same. You always have two legs, you always have two arms, hands, et cetera. This doesn’t change no matter what the shape is. So you’re looking for a similar awareness in each posture within diversity, unity. So for example, how far apart should your feet be in Virabhadrasana? This is not determined by any geometrical criteria. This is determined in your own practice by the presence or absence of stiram sukam. So what this means is your stability is always that upon which your comfort depends, and in a standing posture your stability always depends entirely on the manner in which you’re grounding your foundation. Any builder will tell you this is obvious. There is no point in bothering yourself with the roof if the foundations have not been correctly laid the roof will be off. There is no way out. And this is the same in a yoga posture.

So, the active grounding of the foundation, the laying of the foundation of the yoga posture happens breath by breath, second by second, moment by moment. It is not like building a house where once you’ve laid the foundation you can forget about it. You have to lay the foundation breath by breath, moment by moment. And basically that means you ground whichever parts of the body are supposed to be in contact with the floor as fully, evenly and actively as possible.Recognising that that contact, that grounding is by necessity constantly fluctuating.
All you’re trying to do is to minimise and stabilise that fluctuation. So it’s not about being aggressive. It’s not about imposing, forcing stillness or forcing stability. It’s, again, an enquiry. Is it possible to keep my front foot and my back foot as grounded as possible.

And as the answer starts to become, “no”, then the question has to be asked, “have I gone far enough?” or, “have I gone too far? “ and if the answer is yes you can’t be stable across your foundation.

So what that means for many people in this example of Virabhadrasana, is that the bending of the front leg which is the most obvious thing, and the forward movement of your body and your attention, which is the most obvious and natural thing, must rest upon and come from the grounding of your back foot.

To learn more about Godfri’s work see

 

 
 

 

 

 

Because yoga…

Because yoga practice is not physical exercise.

Yoga is not a form of athleticism. Yoga practice is an invitation to awareness of that which is actually happening so that you can live your life as it is instead of pretending to be something that you’re not.

That your life is something that it isn’t.

Because despite the popular belief otherwise, you only live once and when you’re dead, you’re dead.

The genetic code which gives you your unique existence will never ever exist again. So you only have one chance to live your life and it’s now. It’s not tomorrow.

It´s Right Now. And yoga is simply an invitation to that. To honour the life that you’ve been given. And by living it according to the capacity that it has.

Not trying to make your body be like John Scott or Richard Freeman. This is an invitation to despair and dissatisfaction. Subtle perhaps, unadmitted maybe.

But dissatisfaction nevertheless.

The form of the yoga postures are fundamentally a lens, a lens through which you can find out what is actually happening in your life. A lens that Patañjali has given us, within which or through which or by which to most effectively clarify that which is actually happening. A lens that has ten facets: and that’s Yama and niyamas. So within the form of the postures you are being invited to recognise the presence or absence of sensitivity, honesty, openness, focus, generosity, commitment, contentment, passion, self awareness and selflessness. When your body is more challenged by the shape, when your body has less capacity to make that shape, those factors will be compromised more than when your body has the capacity to do the posture or to do the shape. So the amount of compromise to those factors that you become aware of is an indication of how far you should be going. So the application of the principle compass of stiram sukam is within the context of Yama niyamas.

Yoga lifestyle with Olga Tsibarnea