Yoga as Metaphor

You might have noticed my idea of yoga is very expansive. So expansive that it could encompass nearly every area of life. This is intentional, and in line with my understanding of the Yoga Sutras and the Ashta-anga – or eight limbed path – at the center of the second Book.

I had this impulse though before I ever read the Sutras.  When I am very invested in something, it permeates the artificial divisions of life. It was that way with Academic Philosophy at one time, and has been that way with Paramedicine. The endeavors become uber metaphors which then subsume everything else.

But with yoga, this is more than a personal idiosyncracy, even neurosis.  The part of yoga that is most familiar to us as Westerners is the physical part, particularly the asana. The names of the poses are revealing, sometimes fun, sometimes puzzling. But also a clue: there is meaning more deeply embedded than just “oh, this one stretches your shoulders.”

When we hold our bodies, even challenge them to find specific positions we open up to physical and emotional experiences we are able to avoid in the day to day of our lives.  These experiences hold pieces of meanings that it is our life work to put together. Leaving them dormant won’t keep them silent, because experience has it’s own internal drive for expression. But consciously creating a space to discover what we literally hold within ourselves can enhance everything else we hold dear in our lives.

How are you relating to yoga in your life? Are you enlivened by your answer to that question? Does your answer make you curious? Does it bring up emotion?

The last paper I ever presented as an academic was  a promisory for a theory of structural metaphor as a non-sentential theory of truth. It was an unconscious Dear John letter to my life as an academic, because of course all of that discourse occurs sententially. But the impulse was correct, I think. 

Human beings are meaning making machines. Our freedom is made meaningful by the fact that the building blocks for the meanings we create are our physical, everyday experiences, tying us to an intersubjective world that doesn’t answer to our whims.  Having a yoga mat and an idea of how to use it as a labratory can make the our humanity so much more comprehensible by acting as a place to discover things about how we are all the time because it’s how we are in our core, under all the fat, lace and dirt. 

With yoga as laboratory, life can become a prayer, the way I’ve always known it was meant to be. A big, complicated, joyful, interesting, tear sodden, hilarious, tragic, epic prayer.

2 thoughts on “Yoga as Metaphor

  1. “meaning-making machines”. Indeed.

    I read Cesar Milan’s (the “Dog Whisperer” from National Geographic) book not too long ago, and if you can get past his absurd starry-eyed regard for his celebrity clients, he’s got a lot to say about yoga–even though that’s not how he phrases it. His advice on becoming your dog’s “pack leader” is basically the same thing I look to get from every prayerful thing I do in my day, be it actual yoga, or writing, or working in my yard, or cooking, or taking a walk… He writes about being entirely present all the time, being balanced, and exuding a “calm-assertive” energy. Dogs, in Milan’s opinion, won’t follow a pack leader who projects any sort of unstable energy, and so we humans who intend to be their pack leaders must take a close, honest, unflinching look at ourselves and release our unstable behaviors–frustration, jealousy, extremes of emotion, inconsistency, and so forth. Maybe be the new bumpersticker should read, “Universe, help me to be the yogini my dog wants me to be”.

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