Saw this via Broome St. Temple: “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Hinduism.” It’s by Senior Director of Hindu American Foundation and Broome Street Temple board member Sheetal Shah. Just one of the things:
3. Karma is more than just “what goes around comes around.”
Karma is the universal law of cause and effect: each action and thought has a reaction, and this cycle is endless until one is able to perform virtuous action without expecting rewards.
The Bhagavad Gita, III.19 and III.20 expounds on this:
Therefore, without attachment
Perform always the work that has to be done
For man attains to the highest
By doing work without attachment
Likewise you should perform with a view to guide others
And for the sake of benefiting the welfare of the world
Belief in karma goes hand in hand with belief in reincarnation, where the immortal soul, on its path of spiritual evolution, takes birth in various physical bodies through the cycle of life and death. Though karma can be immediate, it often spans over lifetimes and is one explanation to the commonly asked question, “Why do bad things happen good people?” or visa versa.
What I really want to talk is: Why do we talk about asana so much? And, is it time to stop?
So, already, I’m contributing to the problem: too much asana obsession.
I know this has been on my mind because of our trip next week to New York for Robert Moses and Eddie Stern’s workshop. Like our Namarupa trip to India last year and our next one this summer, asana is so far from central to our reasons for going that it may as well be Jupiter in our universe of reasons.
By contrast, before the first Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, I was a fiend for making sure my asana practice was as ready as it could be.
Now… you know, the practice will be what it is at Eddie’s, especially with the time difference. (Hi, effectively 4 a.m. practice!)
Don’t go thinking, of course, that this attitude means I won’t be bringing my all to the mat next weekend. There’s a matter of respect — for Tim Miller, as my teacher, and for Eddie, as a guest in his space — that will drive my intention. Go big or go home, as they say.
I realize there are some complicated, and conflicted, reasons for our asana obsession. It’s the initial limb of Ashtanga that we in the West are encouraged to embark upon; the first and second tend to be sucked up in its wake. Then we go from there.
Perhaps more difficult: There’s the whole health/beauty/fit/thin societal construct. Dissertations have been written on this. To avoid 250 pages on the topic, let’s call it the “work out vs. work in” phenomena.
Also, asana is a lot easier to talk about than all the internal stuff, the emotional stuff, the mind stuff. Plus: Selfies.
Nonetheless, my observation is that our obsession is getting worse, not improving. In my entirely unscientific sampling lately (meaning a combination of my yogi-heavy Facebook and Twitter feeds), there seems to have been more asana talk than usual. (I’ll admit our culpability. I thought up this post topic while doing our latest asana aid.)
Perhaps this is a blip. It’s the start of the new year, after all, a time when resolutions focus pretty intently on that societal construct I mentioned earlier. Maybe people are trying to shake off their holiday indulgences. Or maybe there’s been asana to warm the heck up and fight the Polar Vortex.
At the same time, though, it also feels like maybe we’re all caught in a bit of an echo chamber — both real and virtual. In the virtual one, we upload yoga pictures and share post about asana this or that. In the real one, we talk about our practices, which pose is giving us trouble (or always gives us trouble) and seek ways to address those problems.
Could it be, I wonder, that we’re stuck on the third limb of Ashtanga, and rather than pulling each other out — or just lifting ourselves out — we are repeatedly sticking ourselves to it? Is it somehow a lower form of the Wheel of Life, which we’re equally stuck within?
Or, perhaps, it is another form of the “asana as metaphor for life” lesson. We all know that the practice teaches us how to handle those tough moments in life, the ones when we need to be able to breath calmly in the face of hardship. Tough poses are just tough moments. Perhaps asana practice as a whole (and our attachment to it) equally is a training ground for us to learn how to release ourselves from the karma wheel. You’re trapped, you’re trapped, you talk about it, you obsess about it until you finally find your way free.