Yoga - a New Old Way of Health
Somewhere along the line between 4,000 years ago and today, what "health" is got redefined. In earlier times, there was no distinction in thought between mind, body, or even spirituality. We didn't look at our selves or each other as disjointed parts -- we were simply all one thing. If you were healthy, everything was in harmony. You were happy.
The progress of science and scientific instruments, however, lead us to look closer at the parts. The 1600s came along, and with it bright minds like Rene Descartes and others began breaking things apart -- both in study, and in understanding. Partly this was a convenience for research -- you can't look at different parts all at the same time with these great new tools. The idea gained popularity that if you know something about something's parts, you know about that thing.
Once broken, advancing medicine could sweep aside general healers in favor of the specialist: a parts doctor. And so to the orthopedic surgeon, you're healthy if your bones are in good order. To the cardiologist, well, the heart is the center of everything. To the psychologist, you're OK if your mind is working. Maybe they're the closest -- because what's going on in your head is what creates your life, whether you're aware of it or not. But the tough thing there is, when something isn't working, talking at people doesn't really change them. And for a good psychologist, getting people to talk themselves can help, but this tends also to be a long, tough road.
Yoga gets people to feel. To connect to themselves. The actual experience of yoga -- doing yoga -- allows us to know clearly that we're not separate parts to be studied or treated separately. Yoga connects us with our own ability to create one whole complete system. There are many tools out there, for work on many different things. Hammers for driving nails, saws for cutting, brooms for sweeping. Yoga is the tool that works on the whole thing all at once. Some of our earliest health systems were created in East and Central Asia based on this understanding -- that we're one thing to work on all at once. And these systems were very successful, designed through direct experience, and working through each practitioner's own direct experience. There are good things about our medical system today -- but it shouldn't (and can't) be our first line of defense. Through yoga we're our own first line, and that just might be the only health system we'll ever need.
What we're part of right now, in this generation, is a move back to real yoga. Not a philosophical or foreign culture study (although both are fine and interesting), but the actual use of the tool, for what it was originally designed. When yoga was created, people weren't concerned with studying someone else's culture or language. They were very seriously involved in learning to make life better. To make whole health -- even happiness -- back in a time when we didn't have the surgeon or pharmaceutical dispensary as the backup for when something really went wrong, and there weren't specialists to carve us up and leave us in pieces. Yoga was not designed for political or philosophical control. It wasn't for one person telling other people what they ought to do and not do. Yoga, like other early approaches to health, was uncovered as a highly individualistic, intuitive system, something each individual already had in them: a way to find your own way to what you should do and not do to be healthy, happy, whole.
So is yoga mostly about asana? Or meditating? Or breathing? The answer is yoga is about what you need to be healthy. If we have ancient pictures of people spending a great deal of time sitting -- remember that these people lead very physical lives already, sometimes even at altitude in the mountains. Probably they needed a rest. That's not what most of us desk-dwellers need today, here. But does this mean we take yoga as aerobics? Not exactly. Just as it was designed, in the same thinking as its design, we take it as a whole. All things together -- moving, breathing, concentrating... so we find our own way to the things we should do and not do. Not someone else's old prescription on the "life and code of a 'Yogi'" -- but our own code, that works in creating our own whole life. It doesn't work so well to read and copy. You have to find it in your self, to stand on your own feet. Copy something beautiful-sounding and you may bliss out. But you won't be on your own feet. You won't find whole health, what yoga can uncover in you. Live You. You're everything you need.
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