Is chasing after the ever elusive “enlightenment” a good idea?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “to yolk” or “to join.” The idea behind yoga is to unite body, mind and spirit in equal parts through the vehicle of the breath. In addition, we practice yoga by mimicking nature. There might be something to that…
Yin Yang theory has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Taoists spent many moons in nature and noticed that the human body has much in common with the rhythms and cycles of the seasons. There is black in the white and white in the black, day in the night and night in the day.
Every moment and experience has a little of the opposite intertwined. In this way, experiences are only whole when both sides are present. One cannot be extracted from the other. The trick is to keep them balanced.
In the West, many of us are divorced from nature. Less attention is paid to the natural ebb and flow of the cycles of life. We stay up late with our electric lights and fight the seasons with air conditioning and allergy medications. When the days get shorter, we moan and complain and when we get sick, we pop a pill. We tend to see diseases as entities we “catch” or foreign mutations that need to be “cut out” and discarded.
Being healthy has nothing to do with illness, and depression is something we avoid at all costs.
Eastern philosophy has an entirely different take on the nature of health. Illness is seen as a yin/yang pair with health. Staying healthy is the ability to move in and out of illness with ease. It’s not about feeling good every second of every day because that’s never going to happen.
But when you do swing out of balance, how large or little is the swing and how easy is it to move back on track?
If we take yin yang theory to the yoga mat, we will see that a quiet mind will never completely overrule the monkey mind and moments of samadhi, enlightenment and bliss are just that—moments. It’s kind of a checks and balances system.
Searching for the ever elusive enlightenment with the intention of staying there forever is just as out of balance as letting our petty worries run our lives or working for that perfect physique to the point of detriment and exhaustion.
So, the next time you find yourself on your yoga mat I invite you to take a deep breath and remember: body, mind and spirit in equal parts. Attempting to extract only the “good” things out of life is confusingly unfulfilling. All three parts exist to keep us balanced.
Angela has spent her life studying the mind-body connection through movement, kinesiology, anatomy, yoga and massage. She can be found weekly at the Yoga Pod (teaching yoga) and Fully Alive Medicine (massaging stressed out muscles.)
Editor: Brianna Bemel