Yoga – what is the right motive?

By 14th September 2021No Comments

I’ve mentioned this before, in other places and contexts. But I want to talk about it again – I think it is significant and worth mulling over.

I am looking at what yoga means, and what yoga practice means. As you look around you, in towns and cities up and down the land, yoga appears as an exercise class – not too dissimilar to Pilates (though many would get hot under the collar at that comment). This exercise component of yoga is called ‘asana’. There is talk of more than just exercise or asana, but what those words mean is not so easy to pin down. And whatever else it is, the exercise is good for you. For years I taught this, and worked to get a viable class going. I wanted to earn from it, maybe make a living from it. But while I did that, my own practice was different, though it included asana.

As I’ve aged, my opinions have clarified, and my own practice has solidified. These days I am looking at things differently. I am looking at it in a way not dissimilar to how I view my car. I have a diesel car. If I go to a fuel station, I don’t debate, “Which fuel should I put in today?” or “I’ve been putting in diesel for ages. I fancy a change – today I’ll put in petrol.” If you don’t put the right fuel in your car, you will create a headache for yourself. It is not about choice. It is about the type of fuel your vehicle run on, what your vehicle needs. Similarly, if you stop all your vehicle maintenance – what do you expect to happen? That decision is not likely to end well.

Health is not dissimilar, though it is way more complex. Our physical body has physiological needs – right movement, right diet, right breathing, right thinking… Of course there is choice, and rightly so. But also, there is an element of non-choice. If your actions are such that the consequences are strengthening, building, growing, nurturing there is inherently a tendency towards health, resilience, well-being, thriving… If your actions are such that the consequences are heading in the opposite direction, if your movement is inadequate or inappropriate, if your diet is poor if not actually toxic, if your thinking is toxic – what do you expect the consequences to be?

Perhaps the most significant thread of what I am doing here, is promoting awareness of that thread:
aspiration – decision – action – consequence

The Conundrum

All too often, yoga is portrayed as a leisure activity. Something you do on a Tuesday evening because you enjoy it. And, of itself, nothing wrong with that. For me, yoga is a way of life. This comes back to the principle of Dharma, of right action. The principle of acting motivated by Dharma versus simply because I fancy doing it. Of course, there needs to be choice. But too much ease does not lead to strengthening. Too much of eating only what you fancy, doing only what you fancy – seldom ends well. If you want your life consequences to be strengthening, building, growing, nurturing (ie anti-fragile), your actions need to be in line with that. Your decisions need to be in line with that. Your aspirations need to be in line with that. Otherwise … what is it that you expect? This is not the language of a nice fluffy yoga class, with nice, tinkling music that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy – which is lucrative because that is what people want, which makes it very saleable. The global yoga industry, with studios, retreats, clothing, mats, blocks, and other accessories is, is worth well over $130bn. []. There is money to be made from yoga.

This is the nub of the conundrum. Design and offer a yoga that is commercially viable, lucrative for me? Or … work at a practice that will lead you towards anti-fragile, in the fullest sense of that term. A practice that will lead you to real sustainable contentment, of health, of resilience, of wisdom, of kindness, of harmony, of respect for all living creatures. A practice that at half past five in the morning, says to you,

“Come on, up out of bed – time to practice.”
“But I don’t feel like it, I want to sleep more…”
“Tough. Not the point. It is practice time now, let’s get up and practice.”

I think this conundrum boils down to a single decision – act motivated by right action or act motivated by what you feel like. Take responsibility for your own actions and consequences or don’t … and inherently, passively you give that responsibility to someone else – which disempowers you, and inevitably enables someone else to make a profit out of your decision. Develop a practice and format that is lucrative for me, or develop a practice that is in your best interest – how compatible are those two aims?

Which do you think is the path of right action? Where do you stand, and what are the aspirations that drive your behaviour? I think, in many ways, this is the defining question of our times – for you, where does meaning lie, and what actions will come out of that?

In my own practice, I am looking at a motive of right action in the long term – which is empowering. My biggest hope in offering this work is empowerment for you and a long term move toward anti-fragile for you. Reclaim your sovereignty, and make it yours.