The body & Liberation

How does modern day yoga differ from the traditional practices that are its origin?

For as many years as I have been practicing I have been alternately revolted and enthralled by the calisthenics of yoga.

How can this universal path of liberation have as one of its requisites wrapping a leg around the back of your neck? How can I find merit in practicing 108 rounds of surya namaskar when I know full well that this body of mine is not me at all.

At times, especially in the digitalized world we live in, drenched in filtered images of physical perfection, it seems like the yoga community as a whole is intent on communicating the blissful state achieved through rigorous, persistent coaxing of the body into increasingly sophisticated forms. It is enough to throw ones arms up in despair at the paltry effort one is making. How can my daily offering of uttanasana, trikonasana, tadasana provide even a fraction of this bliss state?

The body, if not attended to, becomes a source of great distraction. We attend mindfully to the body in our asana practice in order to get to know it better, to know its ways. But as we get to know our body better there is a parallel journey occurring, we are going deeper within, to the subtle realms.

We attend mindfully to the body, knowing that the body is not what it’s about at all. The vital energy that animates us cannot flow through a body that is dull, lethargic or stressed and uptight. It is hard to have the mental focus to trace the breath let alone deepen it.

When we have awareness of breath, true awareness, moment-by-moment awareness, we begin to welcome the experience of now. We begin to let go of past impressions. We shape our future in each moment.

‘The Inner Tradition of Yoga’ by Michael Stone is a practical, heartfelt book that brings us back to the heart of yoga. With his death the beautiful mystery of the world becomes apparent. Liberation is not for those who practice perfect physical asanas, nor is it for those who don’t. Liberation is for all who live and die, for all beings, great or small, for all beings everywhere.

Liberation is not an intellectual feat, the body shows us that time and time again.

Thank you to Michael Stone for sharing his enlightened views. May his writings continue to inspire.