In attempting to make sense of what we see when observing someone’s practice of asana it is essential to understand something of how yoga views the relationship between the general and the particular. Or in other words, how specific actions (such as an asana) reflect a greater principle.
How is it that the detail that a teacher applies to the asana comes to have a greater effect than this same detail implies? Instructions can be used to refine alignment but they do much more.
Yoga recognises that our actions are not independent or isolated from one another. Past experience informs and guides our actions and these same actions contain motive (both fears and desires) often unseen by us. A practitioner aims to study the gross actions and through this study, to uncover the subtle content of our actions. Still further, to study the forces which propel us in our lives.
Sounds grand? It is an ambitious undertaking.
Patanjali indicates that in many ways we are expressions of nature. We are born, we live, and we die. Just as nature is made up of particles subject to constant change, so too, are we. The three forces of nature namely, density (tamas), vibrancy (rajas) and luminosity (satva) can be seen in all objects. Humanity itself has an endless expression of these forces in the diversity of individuals. In turn, each of us is an expression of either more or less of these 3 forces. Some heavier, some lighter, some more inclined to action or to stillness etc. We come from nature and we will return to nature. Indian thought names the 3 forces of nature as the Gunas.
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