How Does Yoga Help?

Recently, a yoga skeptic asked me ‘why is Yoga such a big deal?’ She was asking in jest, just making small talk at a party. She knew my deal…guy into meditation, yoga, and health-food. I could tell by her disjointed gestures and wandering eyes that she was a bit drunk. No judgments, so was I. Since she was merely looking to play, I dodged the question but her question got me thinking. Here are some thoughts…

Yoga is a big deal to some. Depends on who you are and how you view the world. More specifically, how you perceive your experiences.

Let’s look at 2 examples of how one might view their experiences

First: When you experience frustration does it look like…..

This morning there was a lot of traffic. I wish I could have blasted my way though a thousand cars with a bulldozer while screaming obscenities at my victims.

Such a state of mind views circumstance itself as the basis of one’s experience. People in this state see the manipulation of objects, people, and happenstance as the answer for alleviating discomfort. To them, the problem exists externally. This pretty much describes the world today. Frustrated, violent, and pointing the finger. Their emotional world is tied directly to circumstance. Yoga may be helpful to this group for stress relief. It will likely do nothing more.


Second Group: When you experience frustration does it look like…..

This morning there was a lot of traffic. I noticed myself beginning to feel hot and anxious in frustration. I noticed that this resistance to traffic is in me. I do not need to do anything but breathe and be where I am. I am aware that I am the resistance and that returning to presence, letting go, becomes the dissolution of this frustration. Circumstance does not define the quality of my moments or being. Physical discomfort is a fact of life. Mental discomfort is a choice.

The people of the second group recognize perception itself as the basis of their experience. They see joy, suffering, acceptance and resistance arising from the world of perception as a CHOICE. They need not be slaves to circumstance. If they value acceptance as the basis of joy, then they wish to understand and dismantle inner resistance. Where there is resistance, there is no acceptance. While perception itself becomes worthy of examination, circumstance is merely the backdrop. Yoga is a great tool for developing an intelligent response to psychological resistance. It helps us untie the knot of resistance until only acceptance and joy remain.

How does yoga help?
The tension of the stretch invites us to willingly step into the world of physical discomfort. It asks us to be attentive to the nuance of unpleasant sensation. When we are increasingly willing to face this discomfort with acceptance, when we can embrace these sensations fully, we are increasing our tolerance to the discomforts of life. This in turn takes the power away from our feelings of fear. With a greater tolerance of fear, we may respond to such feelings and circumstances with greater intelligence and peace.

As we become less afraid to face life’s discomforts, our mind opens willingly to the unfolding of life’s happenstance. Compassion, fearlessness, selfless giving, and a feeling of trust arise. The value of this trust is in life itself being good enough. That an open and attentive state of awareness is already complete, that perception itself is already full and worthy of our awe. Our trust resides in this and the ground on which it stands is joy.

If a person wants to nurture their open state of perception, wants to end their resistance to life’s happenstance, then yoga is a great practice.

-Doug Siegel

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