Yoga Side Effects

If you live on the breath,

you won’t be tortured

by hunger or thirst,

or the longing to touch.

The purpose of being born is fulfilled

in the state between “I am”

and “That”.

~ Lalla

One of my favorite side effects of a regular yoga practice has been the opportunity to shift my perspective and see the world through different points of view. This is one reason why I love living in a big city, and going to popular events. It is much easier to limit my sense of “self” and broaden my perspective of “Self” when I can see 25,000 people all at the same time, and share an experience with them.

What is infinitely fascinating is that 25,000 people can all be at the same live event, and each and every one will have his or her own unique perspective of the shared experience. The diversity and richness of life is limitless on the whole, yet limited by the individuals themselves.

I am what I see:

I think our center of self is most often in reference to how we see the world. Literally how we see with our eyes. Isn’t it interesting that the word “I” and the word “eye” are homophones? In essence then we use the same word to refer to ourselves and to refer to the organ of perception, the eyes, which we employ to create an internal map of the external world.

Somehow or another we all design a perspective of the world, how it works, and how we function within it. We look to others to see if our experience can be verified, and for feedback. We are influenced by our cultures and by our individual experiences within the contexts that we live. We develop a sense of self, which convinces us that we are separate and distinct from the universe we live in, because this is the way it looks.

The Hands as “Object”:

When I was studying psychology in undergrad, I did a final thesis paper to research how people learn. I studied old transcripts of therapy sessions. In one of the dialogues a therapist was speaking with a patient and the patient kept referring to his hands as if they weren’t his own; they were an object rather than a part of him.

It may even be interesting to go so far as to see a mouse and a computer as an extension of “the self”. The mouse is a tool that can be connected to the hand, which serves as a bridge for our ideas to be displayed onto a screen so other people can see them, and so the material of our minds can be organized in front of us, and saved for later.

The space between “I am” and “That” is disputed all of the time in regards to intellectual property.

Where does “the self” begin and end?

The Feet as “Subject”:

When we practice yoga we begin to have a deeper relationship with all of the components of the body. We begin to understand the perspective of our hands, our feet, our low back, our necks. We begin to understand that our feet aren’t just these objects down there that fit into shoes and bring us from point A to point B because that is their job, but the feet are actually a part of the whole entity of who we are as an individual and they have their own unique perspective. The feet like to be stretched and massaged and they love to feel the roundness of the earth beneath them. Feet like to be free rather than crammed into uncomfortable shoes.

Of course, this may be a different perspective than the eye, which wants us to look a certain way. Personally, I still wear shoes that are more pleasing to the eye than the toes on special occasions, but as a general rule I take time everyday to make sure my feet feel taken care of, free, respected, grounded, alive.

The Relationship Fills In The Gaps:

A yoga practice awakens us to the relationships between subject and object. It helps us to fill in the gaps between “I am” and “that”. For example: When we practice warrior one mindfully we begin to understand that the position of the back foot affects the position of the pelvis, which affects the sensations in the low back, which affects the musculature of the upper back, which creates either and ease or a jamming in the neck, which affects the expression of the face, which affects the thoughts. Furthermore, we can begin to understand how our own positions in life effect our families, our friends, our communities, and this world. Then, hopefully, from this awakening we begin to also see how we as “individuals” relate to the whole, and the space between subject and object, between “I am” and “that” begins to blur and become more holistic.

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About Joyce Englander

I teach weekly yoga classes in New York City, which focus on moving mindfully and gracefully with the breath. I believe that learning yoga is similar to learning a language, and the more you are around it the more fluent you become. This blog is an opportunity to share my thoughts and re-visit lessons from class; to create a bridge for students to translate their classroom experience into real life. I am interested in how practicing yoga can help to improve people's lives and reduce needless suffering.
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