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Yoga vs Sport

nalus2010-07-05 22:33:36 +0000 #1
An interesting article how yoga differs from sport
Chandra2010-07-05 22:37:50 +0000 #2
Dear Nalus,

Thanks for an interesting post. I enjoyed the article and appreciate your sharing with the forum community.

It is always interesting to me how we view "yoga" as a definition of "asana". The practice of yoga postures alone, without the intention of learning about one's s(S)elf, and without the attention/mindfulness of what is being experienced becomes, in my opinion, a physical exercise, devoid of the qualities of a yoga practice.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras define Yoga (YSI,2):

"Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodha"

variously translated as:

(Iyengar) "Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness."

(Desikachar) "Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions."

(Stiles) "Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception."

It seems to me, then, that the experience of Yoga is different than yoga practice. The experience of Yoga is the goal. Practice is the means toward the goal.

Desikachar says (pg 80 in The Heart of Yoga) "The essential purpose of yoga practice is to reduce avidya (misunderstanding/misapprehension) so that understanding can gradually come to the surface."

In my yoga training with Mukunda Stiles, the Yoga Sutras are emphasized. Asana - the physical postures - are one of the 8 limbs or component parts of a yoga practice - not the whole thing. Asana, further, is defined by Patanjali in a way which is entirely noncompetitive and non goal oriented. It takes time and effort to find the places of holding/fearing/egotistical striving which prevent us from being in the posture as an asana - but that is the practice part.

YS II,46: Sthira Sukham Asanam

(Stiles) "Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position"

(Desikachar) "Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation."

(Iyengar)"Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit"

Our tendency as a society is to "do" something or "achieve" something. Preferably something which can be pointed to, shown to be different than the something that someone else has (that is - an achievement in comparison to other's). We define ourselves by how similar or different we are from the people and objects we see on the outside. Sport is a very good example of this tendency. Yoga, and it's practice through the medium of Asana, are not about doing or achieving (something which currently is not), rather, they are about experiencing what is.

You have touched upon a passionate point for me. I cannot perform asana for the purpose of body building, but cannot deny that Asana does benefit the body. Personally, the practice of asana is more inward than physical. As a yoga teacher, it is my role to assist the student to finding the practice of yoga asana which will lead them toward greater s(S)elf awareness - leading them to seeing what is within themselves all ready - meeting them and their goals within the context of all that Yoga and Asana have to offer. It is like a great stream. Some come for a brief drink to quench their thirst, and are off again on a great adventure. Others camp for a time at the shore, or return frequently to fill their pails, carrying the clear waters with them as they follow their path through the world. Others immerse themselves in the waters and swim.





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