Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Is there anything wrong with asana for asana's sake? Or, Ode to Fancy Asanas

I just read this very illuminating and entertaining post that Shanna wrote about whether there is anything wrong with doing asana for asana's sake. Here's Shanna's take on this sticky issue:

"...what the hell is wrong with sometimes doing the the asana for asana's sake? The human body is a beautiful and amazing vehicle that we are only leasing for a short time. Not  having fun with it and testing its limits is like owning a Bugatti (one of the world's fastest cars), and never driving it past 50 mph because going from A to B does not require it." [for a visual of what a Bugatti actually looks like, check out Shanna's post]

To this, I would add: Unlike a Bugatti, which can presumably run for a very long time if you take good care of it, there are probably only a certain number of years the human body can do fancy asanas (whatever your personal definition of "fancy" might be). So all the more reason to do fancy asanas (and enjoy doing them) while your body still can. The key, of course, is to do asanas and enjoy doing them without becoming attached to their perfection, or becoming attached to the idea of holding on to them and being able to do them forever. This, I think, is the ultimate life lesson to be gained from doing fancy asanas: In life, one will have and experience nice/fancy things. There is no need to deny them their place in the sun. Enjoy them when you have them. But be prepared also to gracefully relinquish them when it's time to let them go. At the end of the day, it is better to have and then to lose/not have, than to not have had at all. Because if one has never had anything, how can one learn to lose gracefully and with equanimity?

But perhaps some people might still insist that asana is nevertheless unnecessary for our practice. Surely, it may be said, if the goal of yoga is self-realization, and the goal of asana is to make the body a fit vehicle to pursue this goal, surely we wouldn't need to be able to, say, put our leg/s behind our heads in order to render our bodies fit enough to pursue such a goal? So isn't asana then redundant/unnecessary, even from the point of view of yoga? I love Shanna's response to all this. She writes:

"If you really want to get in the weeds, there are a lot of things we do in our lives that are totally unnecessary.  If we are going to cut out "unnecessary poses", lets cut out all the other unnecessary stuff too. Get rid of your computer,tablets,TVs, I-phones, & other technology gadgets. Narrow your clothing down to two or 3 outfits and a pair of shoes. Get rid of your yoga mats, blocks, & straps because really you can practice yoga without them. Cut your diet down to Kale(it has protein, calcium, omega 3 &6) and water because that is about all you need to live. When you have sex, only do it doggy style or missionary because that is all is really necessary to procreate. Only have one child because that is really all you need to continue your line. This ridiculous list can go on and on. The point is, there are alot of unnecessary things we do in life just because it is harmless, fun, exhilarating and we love it." 

I couldn't help laughing out loud when I read this, especially (I have to admit) the part where she writes, "When you have sex, only do it doggy style or missionary..." Hmm... why doggy style as opposed to any other position? Are there any scientific studies out there that show that doggy leads to a higher procreation rate? Anybody know anything out there? But well, since this is a yoga blog and not a sex blog, I'll leave it at this. But I can't help being curious, nonetheless (things like this sometimes make me wonder if I should start a sex blog to explore trivial sexual questions like this one... is writing a sex blog somehow incompatible with writing a yoga blog?).

But I digress. I guess I'll end here by saying that I am in agreement with Shanna that there is nothing wrong with doing asana simply because "it is harmless, fun, exhilarating and we love it." So long as we also work at not being attached to them.