Sunday, December 4, 2011

Yoga Under a Microscope

Yoga is a lot of things. It’s an art, it’s a philosophy, it’s therapy. Perhaps more than any of these yoga is a science. Science is often misunderstood as a bundle of facts—information that has been proven and is now called Truth. But science isn’t that at all. Science is only one thing: a method of inquiry. It’s a system of asking questions from which comes insight and clarity. So is yoga.

The scientific method is to start with a question: how can I better understand myself or my environment? Is there a better, less harmful, more efficient way to be in the world? How could I help alleviate the suffering around me with a cure for diseases? The question leads to a theory, the theory to experiments. Then comes the most profound part, the observation. Watching. Once the scientist sees, once the mystery is revealed through data, that data organized, translated, and applied, that information qualifies the observer for more refined questions, more refined data, and closer observation. This is the process of unraveling the mystery.

As any good scientist will tell you, the job of the scientist during an experiment is to watch and allow the subject to do whatever it’s going to do. Check your ego at the door. It’s not like the scientist is passionless about what they are studying. The reason they are watching, collecting data, working so hard, is because they feel they might be able to see something which hasn’t been seen before, to learn something new about the world, to understand something more profoundly. The process requires that the scientist simply be an observer and not to mess with the subject. Let it be. But then skillfully apply that information to the betterment or understanding of the world.

And I guess what yoga and scientific have in common is that they both lead toward understanding and they both center in observation. Maybe it’s the intention to understand and heal our bodies or to relieve tension. Maybe it’s the desire to heal a bruised heart or to find some mental quietness. Now we experiment using that which is most practical, basic and real—our bodies and breath. As we observe, we gather specialized information and start to see the nature or our being, pain or disquietude. This insight then invites us to ask even deeper, more refined questions and the process of inquiry continues.

Remember, it is all just a practice. It’s about asking the question even more than finding the answers. So, I invite you to come to yoga ready to observe and let’s practice without expectation.

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