Yoga can be summarized in one word: Relationship. In more words, that is, how we connect (or don't connect) one thing to another; the body to the mind, the head to the heart, the head to the gut, our individual selves to the rest of the world, how we connect ourselves in relationship to other individual people, how we relate to our own bodies, there are so many relationship dynamics going on in all of us that the scope of yoga is infinite.
Stepping onto the laboratory of our yoga mat we can study how we show up in our relationships. How we relate to our postures has a direct correlation to all of our relationships. Pause. Crickets... LOL! Stay with me.
There are two parts to every pose; the architecture of the posture and our relationship with the posture. The physical work to get into and hold a posture is, for most of us, and easier place to dwell in than the second half of the posture which is the "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" journey within. Don't get me wrong- alignment is fascinating and of the utmost importance when it comes to yoga. The correct entry into the posture is the only portal to the full potential to the inner experience. and getting the mechanics of a posture down right is imperative to safely and sustainably holding the posture for any length of time.
...Sometimes we use the technical side of the posture as a way to avoid experiencing our own inner world. And if you've been doing yoga longing enough, you know that the journey one takes during a long posture hold can be a crucible for transformation. In my classes, I often remind students of this relationship with the posture. Set up the pose but then relate to it. Hang out with it. If you and the posture were cornered at a party, what on earth would you talk about? Make it sustainable. Don't wait it out or fidget with your form until it's over. Inquire in stillness. Notice the sticky, resistant parts of your body. Notice the active and the passive- where the effort is and where we can "power down" and conserve energy. Notice what happens to intense sensation when you apply your breath. Notice how the level of sensation affects the nature of your thoughts. Each posture is a full-resolution periscope for viewing the terrain of our own internal world. And we can go there, bravely. We can also stay in the safe harbor of technique and tweak, anatomy and alignment, which is a very cerebral place to be. Yoga is about spreading the consciousness throughout the body. If we just hang out in the head, we miss a LOT of terrain!
If we avoid our own internal world, how do we expect to relate to the external one? We have to be solid in ourselves before we can even begin to expect being solid in our relationships to each other. Steeling our bodies to soften our hearts so that we are strong enough to make ourselves vulnerable. We can't have relationships without becoming vulnerable.
So how does this translate off of the mat? The microcosmic teachings of our practice extrapolates out. How we show up and respond in the heat of the pose is how we show up in our professional lives, with our health, in our parenting, with our money, with our self talk, with the beliefs we have about ourselves, with our activism, with our neighbor, with our self esteem, with every single thing that we do. If we can study our own habits, get to know our clever little ways- charming as they may be, we may be able to perform some alchemy and break out of less healthy relationships into ones that support our own, and, the greater good.