"When I eat, I eat. When I sleep, I sleep" (Zen Buddhist quote)
Yoga is about the training of awareness, of bringing more consciousness to our practice and life situations. Yoga should be a holiday for the body. The body gets battered through daily life so our practice must not take anything away from it - it must enhance it.
There is a term in Vedanta philosophy called Avidya. Its orthodox understanding is 'ignorance', a state of mind that prevents us from seeing our true self. My current understanding is that Avidya can actually be understood as 'not seeing'. Not having awareness.
There is much Avidya in our lives. We are often not seeing. We are often not aware. We are often not conscious.
Our yoga practice should be an opportunity to practice all these things. Through the medium of asana, we can cultivate greater awareness and consciousness.
It's important to find the right system and approach that is conducive to the cultivation of awareness. In a yoga class, the teacher needs to give clear and precise instruction. An asana teacher needs to know the body, know it's logic, know it's true movement. They need to know the difference between what is good for the body and what is for show. The true posture and the false posture. The teacher has a big responsibility.
There is much confusion in the world of yoga.
When practicing yoga asana, avoid any potential confusion to the body. If we really want to move forward in our practice we need total attention.
From experience, things such as music in a yoga class environment diminishes the potential for awareness. It can create confusion for the body. We can not go fully into our practice or fully focus on the body and all its subtle layers. It's an either or situation (listen/dance to music or practice asana). We can move through such classes and may get a physical 'workout' as the chemical processes such as adrenaline and dopamine are being unleashed. We may feel happy and good because we like the music (music is wonderful - it makes our body dance). There is nothing wrong with this, such benefits are clearly apparent. But we cannot reach our awareness potential, it's diluted as it shifts from one to the other. We cannot be fully conscious of what we are doing. We cannot experience the full richness of practice.
We can say the same to many other things that have been combined with asana practice. We also need to remember that many people are continually trying to reinvent the wheel in order to market a new 'system' of yoga. Again, there is no problem with this but we shouldn't lose sight of the practice. If you eat chocolate, eat chocolate. If you listen to music, listen to music. If you practice asana, practice asana.
Our senses often lead us to confusion. Social media is full of people putting their bodies into various shapes in order to entice you into their class or they want you to be in awe of them - it's not real. Aside from this being anything but yoga, if you really look with a trained eye, more often than not, these pictures/bodies are devoid of any awareness, of any skill in action, of any true beauty.
When we return to our yoga mats, let the practice of awareness be the primary practice. Before you even start your asana practice, be aware of what you wear, where your mat is, where the person next to you is, where you leave your stuff, any perfume / fragrance that may effect your neighbour. Be conscious.
Whether we do the asana in its full expression doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that we have physical imbalances. It doesn't matter if we don't practice asana at all. Asana does not lead to enlightenment. What matters is that we have awareness. Awareness in our body and the natural flow of the universe.
A greater depth of awareness and consciousness will add great richness to your practice and everyday life.
Enlightened Asana Workshops 2018: Centering awareness in 'hara' - Balance, alignment and energy flow (February 18th) Bandhas - reservoirs of energy / whirlwinds of the subtle body (March 18th)