Engage your core
The practice of Yoga is a very simple affair. From one angle, the essence of yoga is all about freedom, which is achieved through the expression of unity. As long as you are practicing these two things, you are practicing yoga.
For some of us, this radical simplicity of Yoga can be easily forgotten. We get caught up in the details: the position of our legs, the timing of the breath, which day of the week or month to fast on. We become very good at following prescriptions about how things should be done and then measure our success by the external outcomes. It is unfortunate that some people think they can’t do yoga because their bodies can’t reach as far as the others in the local yoga studio. Even more unfortunate are those that think they are advanced yogis if they are able to touch their toes like the people on Instagram.
While on the recent 300hr teaching course at Yoga Gita in Mysore, there were some lines in the popular chant, Bhaja Govindam, which were particularly memorable for me. These lines can be translated as this: ‘Whether one is occupied by indulging in pleasures, or in the discipline and ritual of yogic exercises, only that one who abides in the Self can ever have true happiness.’ So, even those who are sincerely devoted to the practice can miss the point.
Given the tendency that we have to get lost, it is important for us to remind ourselves of the simplicity of what we are doing when we practice yoga.
Fortunately, there is a phrase that is repeated by teachers in almost every modern yoga class: engage your core. Take this opportunity to remind yourself that the core of your yoga practice is freedom and unity. Just as it is important that we not neglect our core body – our hips, torso, and spine, while we practice postures, it’s also vital that we remind ourselves that everything is a journey of freedom and unity. In the practice of yoga, we tend to reach and extend ourselves in a physical, social, or intellectual way, but this won’t work if we neglect our core. This is true on every level.
For many of us on the yoga path, we become very good at following instructions. But sometimes the focus on doing things well distracts us from the reason that we do these things. Whether it’s holding all of the details of Downward dog together, or attending to the myriad of duties involved with raising a family, don’t lose hold of your core. Remember that it’s all about realising the freedom, love, and joy that each and every one of us is capable of. And as long as we remember that, we’re practicing yoga.
May all be free, may all be one.
Posted by Matthew Yap
Matthew Yap is a graduate student of Yoga Gita teacher training and currently teaches at the Home of Yoga in Perth, Western Australia.