We get so wrapped up in knowing something us humans. We love a good label. We think that it helps us to understand, if we know something definitively, then we are able to put it into a box. Even simple labels such as “good” and “bad”, or “I like” and “I don’t like”. I am sure that we all have a very long list of things that we could label definitively with the above 4 labels.
I have been reading Krista Tippett’s (https://onbeing.org) book “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and the Art of Living” the title alone makes me swoon. In it she interviews Jon Kabat-Zinn who speaks to how it’s the human condition to think that we know everything, and in fact that is our species name: homo sapien sapien “. . . the species that knows and knows that it knows.” How this view, this naming of ourselves is so limiting and how in fact it leads us to “. . . living lives of quiet desperation.” In essence this need to know or thinking that we know carries “. . . us away from ourselves . . .” and the present moment where life is really happening. It also limits us in the sense that if we already know so much how could we possibly be open to experiencing and learning more, to listening deeply with an awareness that is beyond knowing? And in that way experience new experiences, whatever they may be.
How does this relate to our yoga practice you might be asking?
We step onto our mats and we think that we are moving away from the knowing, but for many of us we take the knowing with us. I have been there many, many times. These are the postures I like and these are the postures I don’t like. In Sanskrit, raga – our attachments and dvesha – our aversions. We have the place were we like to put our mat, we have the teacher(s) we like, the class styles we like, the right types of clothes to wear, and the time we like to practice. All the ways in which we box ourselves into the knowing space in our yoga practice are too numerous to list here.
My teacher Janet Stone (https://janetstoneyoga.com) says that people always ask her: “What style of yoga is this?” Because they want to know it, through naming it. And she says she can’t really name it because it is a “living practice” for her. I love this approach to the practice of yoga because it makes the practice expansive if we allow it to take hold of us, versus us take hold of it and make it something known to us.
There is great beauty is this sense of openness, of being willing as the student, not only the student of yoga, but also the student of life to step into the space of not knowing or rather what I like to call unknowing. One thing that I have come to realize on this path of yoga, is that the more that I study and practice, the less I know. The less I can be definitive about and the more like my teacher says the practice is living inside of me, through my relationships, all around me, on my mat and in every breath I breathe.
Of course, there are set postures, alignment principles to keep us safe, the subtle energies of the practice, and the philosophy of the practice but our understanding of these things can always grow and shift if we remain open rather than fixed.
It may be true that Hatha yoga is perhaps more slow, more intentional movement from one posture to the next. Vinyasa, is generally understood to be more fast moving, Power yoga is associated with strength, Yin and Restorative with rest and holding postures for long periods of time working more into fascia than muscle. Bhakti yoga, is the yoga of devotion, and so on. However, it is all Yoga. It is all part of the practice of yoga, part of the practice of yoking a union with yourself and the world around you. Creating harmony within and without. Perhaps if we can open ourselves up to new experiences, and to not knowing, we may surprise ourselves with what we can uncover, what we find in the space of unknowing. Both in our asana practice and in our lives.
So the next time you go to a class and you feel yourself labeling, boxing and knowing see if you can take a few deep breaths and arrive in the present moment.
This post is By Tanya of Shala Yoga in Squamish – Be sure to check them out for great classes taught by awesome locals!