It is easy for us to think yoga is about flexibility. So many of the exercises we do are "stretches." The advanced yogis who we see on Instagram and Facebook every day border on contortion, bending their bodies impressively.
It is also easy for us to think yoga is about strength, especially when it comes to arm balancing. Postures like Handstand or Tiger (Forearm Balance) require tremendous power in the upper body. The Handstanding culture can border on acrobatics.
Neither strength or flexibility is an end in itself in yoga. Sure, there is a certain amount of each that is important for health and normal functioning, but in yoga it is common for us to go way beyond what is "necessary" for our general well-being.
Both the strength and flexibility of advanced yoga serve the function of bringing the body under greater control, and with it the mind. The stretches and balances are not pursued for their own end, but provide us a gateway of concentration to go inward.
The moment our goal is to "get more flexible," "get stronger," "do the splits," "do handstand" or anything of the sort, we need to check our motivation. It is not necessarily bad to have physical goals, but be careful that they do not conflict with the greater purpose of your yoga practice.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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- The 113 Postures of Ghosh Yoga
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Forward Bending