There is no shortage of yoga classes offered all around Malaysia, be it a busy city like Kuala Lumpur or a laid back setting like Kelantan. Just fifteen years ago, ask any Malaysian you see and most of them would associate the practice of yoga to a kind of contortionist act performed only by bearded holy men in the caves of India. And then it became popular. Now, yoga has become as hip as aerobics was in the 80’s.
Yoga has been successfully marketed and re-branded to entice urban dwellers like us. Gone are the mental imprints of bearded men and in place are slim girls in lycra wear. This is yoga as we know it today. Unfortunately nowadays yoga is widely practised merely for its physical benefits. Practitioners have become fixated with the goal of achieving a toned body or conquering a challenging pose. Interested candidates are concerned about whether yoga is able to help them slim down. So called ‘regular’ practitioners only gravitate towards classes that physically challenge them. But we are not entirely to be blamed as sadly, this great art has been packaged and sold to us in that light.
The Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states that Asanas (yoga postures) must be attained before deeper aspects of yoga can be pursued. In that context, it is indeed true that we are on the right track by placing importance in our physical practice. However, it cannot be dismissed that the fundamentals of yoga speaks of the ultimate unification of the body and the mind. This piece of wisdom can and should be integrated into our practice. For example, instead of recklessly forcing ourselves to achieve the perfect looking seated forward bend (and ending up pulling a muscle), it is more beneficial experiencing the flow of energy by linking breath to pose. Similarly, the accomplished practitioner who effortlessly displays perfect form, should not allow the mind to wander in restless boredom but begin connecting at a deeper level by bringing awareness to the control of breath, muscles in play and the subtle intelligence behind those movements.
There is no right or wrong to the role yoga plays in your life. Just as long as we remain aware and open to the deeper potential it holds beyond the sweat factor.