Existential crisis and yoga often meet in the intimate space of suffering. There exists the belief that through the practice of yoga we are building strong and healthy bodies, a carefully constructed pursuit of immortality. But throughout history the devout yogi has sought to transcend the body altogether, to become free from this ultimate attachment. Rather than to make it a comfortable place to reside, the yogi explores the searing fire of mortification and realizes that this is not all there is. Beyond the physical body, the vast field of bliss where all beings meet, awaits.
I came to yoga in my teens. As the foundations shook beneath me in a time that for most of us is characterized by deep uncertainty, I began to embrace a practice knowing subconsciously it would accompany me into whatever age and condition.
As I explored asana for the first time I became aware of this very clear guidance from within, manifesting through my breath. I have been listening out for it ever since. As the physical body becomes more honed, more trained, sometimes it feels as though I have to push it harder and yet yoga is a practice that improves with age unlike other activities that become a struggle as the physical body declines. The more we cultivate the attitude of ‘letting go’ of attachment to the body, the more – conversely - the practice flows.
When suffering rears it powerful head, can we look straight in its eyes without wavering? Can we cultivate the skillful means to navigate it? Unrestrained by fear can we burn through the shackles that hold us back from our true state of bliss? On and off the mat, these may be the greatest lessons yoga can provide.