Without curiosity our yoga practice ain’t going anywhere.
So let’s get curious: open our minds and we will open our hearts.
I want to make thing one clear up front and I invite you to sit up and absorb this with your whole being because this is important: curiosity did not kill the cat.
Worry and sorrow killed the cat.
Whether by intent or by chance, the original version of the saying morphed into what we have today, into something that helps to keep us in our box. So put all that non-judgmental dogma to one side for a moment and entertain the idea that:
Curiosity is a good thing, something to be embraced.
Curiosity brings fun and play into our lives. It leads to adventures in the playground of life. Curiosity is the table stakes for making our awareness real, for transforming our awareness into the creativity to conceive and manifest something new. In other words: without curiosity we ain’t going anywhere.
Curiosity is a skill, something we can develop and grow.
Sure some of us are born with more curiosity than others. So what! We all start where we are now and we grow from here. For those of us who have stumbled across yoga, the good news is that our yoga practice is ideal for developing curiosity. Ideal because through yoga we develop curiosity that is not only intellectual, it is full-being experiential.
This holds true whatever our motivations for practice: whether it is to get more flexible, to lose weight, to de-stress, to heal from dis-ease, to find connection, to explore spirit. When we practice asana we inevitably get curious about something: it may be our physical bodies, it may be about the patterns of thought and emotion that we hold or about the energetic states we are drawn to, or it may be about the connections between all of these. It may be something else and whatever it is there is one golden rule:
Focus your curiosity on your own experience.
When we practice yoga we work and play with the only thing we have—our own experience here and now. Perhaps the greatest distraction we have to overcome when developing our curiosity is focusing on someone else’s experience. This could be our teacher’s experience, the ever-illusive perfect pose or flawless technique. It could even be the idea of enlightenment.
This distraction is external. It is usually static and ideal and often has an element of ‘when I get there’ to it. To be sure, a little ‘looking around’ can be good thing. It can inspire us. With yoga we learn to bring the focus of our curiosity back to our own experience and we apply that most simple and effective way to grow curiosity.
Start asking questions!
Questions like: What is the function of this pose? How does it feel in my body when I do this? How can I manifest the pose in way that is both safe and functional for me now? What sort of emotional reaction do I experience when I do this pose, and what thoughts are behind that? What am I attracted to, and what am I avoiding? How can I both rise to the challenge of the pose and remain open energetically?
Asking questions opens our minds.
When we start asking questions we start opening up our assumptions and beliefs about ourselves, about the world around us and about how we are and act. In the tradition of classical yoga—the yoga of the yoga sutras—yoga is an ongoing process of loosening ourselves from the patterns of mind that hold us. Patterns that are manifestations of what are known as the five kleshas (primary obstacles).
So yoga is an ongoing process of transformation through seeing and exploring these patterns from different perspectives. It is a process of opening our minds.
Growing our curiosity is growing our compassion.
Simply put, opening our minds grows our ability to see what is, and seeing what is opens our hearts—it leads to acceptance, to compassion. Dig deeper: entertain the idea that things may not be as they first appear to you. That there is more to life than meets the eye. That the things you know may not be so.
Question everything with an open mind.
Start with what I have just written and you have just read.
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David Dodd is a life and business coach (www.awareness-and-change.com), and a yoga teacher with a passion for making yoga philosophy real. David works with fellow teachers to offer workshops and retreats focused on deepening and personalizing your practice, and using the tools of Yang and Yin asana practice, anatomy and individual & group coaching. David is currently working on his first book.
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan
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