Yoga Postures vs Gymnastics
Is the Practice of Yoga Postures More ‘Yogic’ Than Gymnastics?
In my expert opinion… no.
“But, Drew, how can that be? How can me performing a headstand in a nice quiet room… with my Wood-Knit Bee, Natural Beeswax Candle burning….
“…sporting my Lululemon ‘Align Crop’ trousers…
“… on my Manduka PROlite yoga mat…
“… having just cleared the space of icky energy with a Heavenly Earth Essences space clearing spray….
“… well… how can that not be yogic?
“I mean, how can some sweaty dude doing handstand on the rings in an arena filled with crazed, maniacal gymnastics fans, be yogic?
“Certainly, Drew, that can’t be more yogic than my practice? Can it?”
Well… the answer to that is quite simple.
Yes. Yes it can.
Your asana practice may or may not include yoga. Without seeing you practice it’s very difficult to say. Even then, I wouldn’t be able to gauge the ‘yogicity’ of your practice without asking you a few questions.
But I can tell you this… with a high degree of expert accuracy…
Most people who practice asana are not practicing yoga. At best they are busy hinting around the edges of yoga. By most I mean roughly 90%. That’s an educated guess, by the way. There’s no clear science involved in that number. It’s an observation made by teaching thousands of hours of classes, workshops and teacher trainings.
Of course, the goal has, and will always be, to rectify this somewhat sad state of affairs. The goal is to get you doing yoga rather than just postures. The goal is to help you explore yoga as a way of life… or at least a way of influencing your life.
Yoga postures are just a tool. You could use other forms of movement if movement is your thing. You could use other forms of exercise if exercise is your thing.
What’s that, you say?
“Isn’t asana part of the Ashtanga? Asana is mentioned in the ancient yoga texts… so it must be the right form of exercise! The yogic form of exercise… the way to eternal bliss through perfecting your body… Right?”
Asana literally means ‘seat.’
In the yoga sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II:46 says… (and this is a rough but literal translation)… “To sit must be comfortable and stable.” It is one of three sutras that mentions asana. Only three!
When you sit for the practice of the samyama (the combined practice of concentration, which leads to the meditative state, which leads to complete absorption in the object of the meditative state), it should not be difficult.
You should be able to sit without thinking to yourself …’my knees hurt…‘ or ‘my low back is killing me…‘ or…
‘I wish this meditation session was over because I’m cold…but I have to do 15 minutes because that’s what my teacher said I should do… so I’m gonna do it… no matter how much agony I’m experiencing… maybe that Hip Opening Series thingy would be a good idea to practice in the future… yes… that’s it… I’ll start that tomorrow…’
“Isn’t this is meant to be a comparison of some sweaty dude’s gymnastics rings handstand with my beautiful headstand? Not some rant about sitting for, what did you call it? Samyamas?
“Who wants all that hoity toity, lofty stuff, anyway? Drew, I want a Yoga Butt, and I want it now. And, I heard that headstand is good for your immune system and your back and even your digestive system and circulatory system. So there!”
Yes, well, therein lies the problem. It must be self-explanatory by now, right? You can see from the above rantings of the random yoga practitioner that yoga and asana don’t really have a whole lot to do with each other, right? Right? No?
Back to that sweaty dude on the rings… or perhaps the powerful and graceful young lady on the uneven bars…
How is it that their performance can be more yogic than your practice?
Talk with a highly trained gymnast. Ask them about their training regimen. Ask them how they mentally prepare each day for their training. Ask them what is happening in their mind as they prepare to begin their floor routine…
Ask them how they learned to focus. Ask them how they prepare their body for competition. It’s an amazing journey. One of total dedication. A journey into self experienced by few people in this life. A yogic journey to match some of the greatest of yogic lore.
Do that and you’ll know what I mean. In the meantime… bring some self-observation into your practice. It will change everything.
There’s still work to do. This might take a while.
Hey, at least I’m not asking you to join a cult.
P.S. No animals were harmed in the creation of this blog post. All outbound links are to pretty cool products for which I have no affiliation. Not that I don’t like getting a little dosh in my yoga account… but, in this case, I’m not asking for any money. 🙂 Just wait… the time will come…