This is the time of year when Face Book and Instagram present me with ads on “Yoga Shred” and how I can get my best body from yoga. I may have my best body from yoga. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t done anything else to try and get my “best body”. I suppose if we wanted to get really philosophical, this has to be my best body because it is the body I have right now.
The Yoga Sutras tells us that, if we can steady our mind, “that our mastery extends from the smallest particle of matter to the entire universe ( 1:40).”
If we can control our mind, we can also get the “Yoga Shred” if we want it. But if we just get a beautiful body, we won’t necessarily have control over our mind.
A popular concept in yoga is to start with the body and let it lead us to mindfulness. This is certainly how I started. Do you remember when people used to describe yoga as a mind/body discipline instead of as “a workout”? Well that was when I started practicing yoga.
As a matter of fact, I remember people being outraged when a popular yoga teacher advertised yoga for weight loss. She actually issued a retraction. That same teacher is now advertising yoga as a workout plan once again, only now, she is not being roasted. It is now accepted. I guess she was a woman ahead of her time.
Just controlling our bodies is like using a jet as a car; a lot of potential and power being unused. We have the potential to have mastery over anything in the universe and all we want to do is be skinny.
Get the nice abs, get the toned arms, and get the quiet mind, too. If you show up on your mat to a half way decent Vinyasa or Ashtanga style class and do the movements, the physical benefits are automatic. The mind control is not. I am sorry. It’s not.
When I first started teaching, I was sold this idea that, if we just do the physical stuff, people become better humans automatically. I have not found that to be the case. What I have found is that people seem more pleasant when everything is going their way. When the yoga class is awesome, the kombucha is flowing and the Lululemon is popping, everyone is a better person. When the kids are well behaved, the rent is paid and their hair is laid, people are vibing. The minute their life falls apart, they immediately go back to their old negative mode of out of control thinking.
You know the yoga is working when everything is falling apart and you still do your practice and you are still devoted to the path of self discovery.
Yoga Sutra 1:14, “Yoga becomes firmly established when it is done consistently, with devotion for a long period of time.”
The yoga shred is not going deep enough. It needs to shred away the deepest levels of darkness that block the heart. Through working with our darkness, we learn the skills to be decent human beings even when things are not going our way.
Go ahead and shred your abs. That’s cool. Don’t stop there. Shred it all up. All the suffering, the fear, the judgement, the anger and the sadness. Use the whole system of yoga and shred it all!!!
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.