Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Expressing Self Truth in the Language of Yoga

Have you ever tried to learn a new language? Let’s say you are learning to speak Spanish. You could begin by learning how to say hello (‘hola”), please (“por favor”) and thank you (“gracias”). With this starting point, you learn not only words but how to pronounce them through manipulation of the different parts of your mouth and throat. It is a multi-dimensional process and most of us would fluctuate between just saying the words incorrectly to making sounds specific to the language without saying words. With practice the words flow correctly and one day you may even think in Spanish. As in learning a language, in yoga all parts usually do not work at once when the student first begins. The practice of yoga itself is a language and the combined elements of breath and movement are often learned as separate parts of this language before they are used together, let alone understood as a single unit.

Learning yoga, as in learning a language- is a lifelong endeavor. Though I grew up speaking English, I have never stopped learning it. As the English language can be arranged, rearranged and even re-created over and over again, so can yoga; both to a degree. With communication and relationship at the heart of language, we may use verbal skills to communicate to others, and yet our deepest intentions are communicated through tone and body language and eye contact in spite of the words we choose. Intention and words are utilized in flux with each other to refine the messages we send to one other, thus acting as just one part of developing relationships. Whether in asana or any other element our practice, we converse intentionally with every aspect of the self including body, intellect, psyche- every part of what and who we are. We also speak to the world around us.

Enter the yoga studio (or any space for that matter). The first thing you might do is search for someone; maybe your teacher or a fellow student. Your experience might range from the nervousness of trying something new to the excitement of seeing your friends. The point is we are constantly communicating and building relationships through every aspect of feeling and behavior. Suddenly every interaction is actually a profound communication.

Most important is that judgment is futile to yoga language development. At least not being aware of judgment is the one thing that will stunt the learning process. It is not the factor of exactly how things happen, but that your awareness of how they happen that matters. Any entry point into your practice is the right one as long as the awareness is primary, and even without awareness, something sparks the desire to learn and that is the beginning to finding awareness.

In yoga we are making a sort of effort toward marrying communication (behavior and speech) and intention (desire + sense of self worth). When the two are in agreement with each other all that is unnecessary dissolves. So to learn the language of yoga is to learn the language of self-realized living.

In learning the language of yoga asana came first for me, then pranayama (controlled breath). Though breath was definitely a part of my first yoga experience, my body and mind were so distracted by instructions, movements and sensations that it was a real challenge to focus on the synchronized inhale-exhale pattern. Fortunately I really didn't care that I could not do that part so well. And for your own personal comfort you should not be concerned with what is difficult to incorporate right away either. I was just having fun. When I became more familiar with the poses and movement I began paying better attention to my breath and slowly the work of learning and practicing pranayama was added to my set of skills.

With these two aspects of my favorite language now easily utilized, a couple of things have happened. I went from wondering what kind of conversation I was having with myself, to being able to listen to and cultivate self-understanding. From there many other aspects of the language of yoga were more readily assimilated. I have learned about how I wanted to think and behave and this started with knowledge of the rest of the eight limbs, all of which play an active role in my daily decision making.

Whatever your starting point happens to be-- whether meditation, postures, breath or any other yoga practice, it is good to remember that there is no real "getting there" or "knowing it" other than where you are right now knowing what you know right now. It is what exists in your immediate experience that is sacred and profound. All truth is the same truth. We can and will only communicate what exists in our direct current expereince. To venture into the process of learning yoga as a language is to remember that despite words, it is the language of the body, the breath and the gaze that we will always say what is being spoken inside.

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