WHAT IF YOGA DIDN'T EXIST...?
'The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.'
Here's an idea I've played around with before, and one that's there to help shake off our aversions and negative associations with beginning a yoga practice, as well as reshaping our understanding of how we use yoga, via the wisdom of Einstein, 3 coffees and 2 welsh cakes, here we go...
Our brains are structured in 2 hemispheres, partly the 'Thinking Brain' and the 'Feeling Brain', the thinking side being your rationality and the feeling side being your intuition.
Einstein wants us to see value in intuition just as much as our rational thinking, our intuition is our creativity, spontaneity and gut feeling, it's the things we do when ruled by the heart.
Our 'Feeling Brain' gives us tingles when we fall in love with a song for the first time, you can't logically explain why your body gets goosebumps when you hear it, it just does.
Equally your 'Feeling Brain' is also the one that wants you to tell your boss to get fucked and crab walk your way out of another mind numbing meeting, then book a one way ticket to the Himalayas and search for Bigfoot, it's a loose cannon, a maverick, luckily this is where the 'Thinking Brain' or logic comes into use, it says 'Bigfoot lives in Canada idiot, everyone knows that' your intuition needs context, it puts the brakes on your monkey mind, it rationalises your creativity and turns them into realistic ideas.
In essence our logic is servant to our creativity, both are essential for our growth, each informs the other, but often the balance between our 'Thinking Brain' (logic) and 'Feeling Brain' (intuition) can be way off.
So how do we apply this idea into the way we see our physical and mental health?
Here's a start.
Imagine yoga doesn't exist...
Imagine downward facing dog hasn't been realised, you don't know if stretching your hamstrings is good for you, no one has told you that saying OM connects you to the universe, there's no such thing as chakras, no self-proclaimed guru to look down their nose at you and thank fucking god instagram is no where to be seen.
You're basically just an overcomplicated potato with a knackered back and a moderate anxiety disorder.
So given that the yoga system or whatever wellness craze hasn't been put on paper yet, how would we go about looking after our bodies? How would be even know that we needed to?
Luckily we have a built in, custom made all-singing all-dancing system to help us figure that out. The body speaks to us through the language of sensation, it tells us when something feels bad or feels good, sensation is the continuous dull ache in your lower back after 40 hours a week sat at a screen, it's the calm that pours through your spine when your partner massages your shoulder in just the right spot, it's the numbing feeling in your jaw after you've rushed a Cornetto and got brain-freeze AGAIN.
The problem is we've forgotten how to translate the language of sensation into something tangible, which means this foreign language the body is speaking to us with goes unheard and lays dormant until the sensations becomes so unbearable we rely on medication to provide solutions.
Often (usually when we're relatively fit and well) the 'Thinking Brain', or your logic, says 'stick to the plan buddy just keep on going, that promotion's just around the corner and you'll get those sweet extra zeros at the end of your bank balance, we can take some time out then'.
Alarm bells will start ringing in the mind when we're overly stressed, tensions will begin to lock up in the body when we are under too much physical tension, 20 years of inactivity go by and all of a sudden we wonder how did we get in this mess?
Well, because the promotion is the plan, these are your logical steps to success, all the while your intuition or your 'Feeling Brain' is saying 'holy fuck, you've not slept in 3 days and you're beginning to look like a hamburger, get-your-shit-together-man, zombies don't make good heads of department' but, we put that voice on silent, because no one in the office cares you're overworked, the trajectory of success has no time for looking after yourself, I mean, your body is only the shell you navigate your entire existence through, it can wait, let's get another espresso.
Yet this is sometimes the mentality that comes creeping in and influences the yoga practice, the very discipline that's there to free you from the shit we have to deal with every day, almost like we're conditioned to be this way.
The red faces, the gritted teeth, the hamstrings about to pop but 'this is yoga right? Everything's fine, stretching is good for me...' all bug eyed and frantic.
From the outside it can look like we can place an unnecessarily high emphasis on aesthetic in yoga, from the staged social media posts to the sickly-sweet veneer of perfection that can seem disconnected and unrealistic to the normal person, so we we fall for the 'I know this pose should look this way because I've seen it online' or the 'I go to yoga so I must dress this way and lead this kind of lifestyle' trap so often that in this pursuit for some fabricated perfection we forget the reason we wanted to join a yoga class in the first place.
These are all attachments that we tether to yoga, and can often be wildly unhelpful. In the pursuit for this endless knowledge and perfection we have forgotten one of the most important qualities of ourselves, the thing Einstein recognised as intuition and called 'the gift'...
This lack of trust in our own intuition is the voice that tells us to hand the keys over to yoga teachers, it let's them take control of our bodies and tell us how to move, yes it is important and useful to trust someones knowledge enough to introduce you to possible ways of unlocking your body, however, at some point we need to take control of the wheel, to begin a healthy dialogue with the language of the body and drive ourselves, yoga teachers are gateways into our own understanding of our bodies and the way we like to move them.
Yoga is the art of refining simplicity, rather than deepening complexity.