Human Beings, Not Human Doings

December 26, 2012
Katherine Austin Wooley


By Nancy McCaochan

Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit yug, to yoke, harness or bind, is commonly translated as "union."  This concept is familiar to most of us who practice regularly.   During class we hold various postures and move between them and unite body, mind and spirit through the agencies of breath and attention to the sensations we experience

The focused attention that we cultivate during class becomes a form of meditation; it slows us down to appreciate the BEING who's doing the poses.  Another way to say this is that the combination of deep breathing and focused attention relaxes us enough that we forget about "doing" and find ourselves immersed in sensory experience.

According to some brain researchers, our minds cannot think and feel/sense at the same time.  Therefore, through the practice of asana, we turn off (or substantially tone down) the inner chatter and--for a short time--come into the present moment, fully with and within ourselves.

At such moments, in addition to sensations in a shoulder or a hamstring, we might also feel waves of emotion--sorrow, regret, loneliness, joy.  Or we might suddenly remember something or someone from our deep past.

Such experiences are cause for celebration:  Yoga is working!!!!

According to ancient yogis and to modern neuroscientists such as Candace Pert, (author of Molecules of Emotion), every reaction--thought, emotion, twitch, judgment, etc.-- that we have to anything produces a chemical reaction within our bodies.  The resultant chemical soup is largely responsible for our moods and is the basis for the way in which yoga helps us change our lives.

When we come to our mats, we're doing more than stretching and strengthening.  We're also retraining ourselves to be less reactive and more fully aware of our inner world--of what we've stuffed down or held back--of what we REALLY think and feel.

Eventually, we learn to take our focused attention and our deep breathing into our lives.  We learn to sit with what is--even if it's uncomfortable.   And we learn that we can respond instead of react.  We can create the kind of chemical soup that makes us feel good.  We can yoke ourselves to what is positive--not always and for all time, but as a practice--one breath at a time.

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