What are similarities between practicing with alignment and living with integrity?
B.K.S. Iyengar said something to the effect of, “One of the most therapeutic things you can do for any given joint in the body is to be weight-bearing on the joint - in good alignment.” The catch, of course, is “in good alignment.”
But, how do you know when you are well aligned in a joint?
On the one hand, it’s complicated, and depends on the mechanics of that particular joint, and the posture that you are doing.
On the other hands, it’s very simple. You will know you are in good alignment when you don’t feel any pain. When it feels like you could hold the pose for an infinite amount of time.
Blood flow and circulation are two of the body's main tools for healing itself. So it makes sense that being weight bearing on a joint would be therapeutic for it. When a joint is bearing weight, and pain free, you can be positive that it is good for that joint. If there is pain, you must reduce the angle, reduce the amount of weight, re-shape the pose or the foundation until there is no longer any pain. Because the worst thing you can do for an injured joint is be weight-bearing on it while mal-aligned.
The yoga practice is a dance then between moving towards the pose as it is described by its form, and as it is truly experienced in the joints of the individual practitioner's body. It requires a deep internal listening, which is why many people find their practice actually comes to life when they are injured or suffering. Sometimes, in order to open a channel that is injured / broken-down / collapsed the pose can take on a very different form. It might have to be greatly modified or propped. This can actually be the fun, creative part.
Alignment is all about physical integrity, and so it can teach us a lot about living our lives with principle and backbone.
Do you want to be the best, the most popular, the most beautiful, the most well-respected, the most successful? What lengths will you go to achieve your desires? We often reach to look a certain way in yoga poses, even when it is beyond our capacity, because we want to achieve external greatness. Achieving greatness isn’t the problem. Yoga is all about slowly and steadily moving towards nothing less than ENLIGHTENMENT! But without integrity we may be reaching two light years ahead, just to be sucked into a black hole of injury or agony.
Conversely, we may give up too early, be lethargic, demonstrate hopelessness, and lack awareness in our practice - or life.
As we learn how to have integrity in our physical body, we can learn valuable lessons about living with integrity.
The Yoga Sutras say that living ethically is the absolute foundation to living a luminous life. If we lie, cheat, steal... then our greed will always get in the way of our wealth. Clayton Christensen, author of, How Will You Measure Your Life, says, “Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all of the time. It is easier to hold your principles 100% of the time, then it is to hold them 98% of the time.” Shakespeare said, “The earth has music, for those who listen.”
The philosophy of yoga offers many ethics or Yama that one could base his or her life upon. The five Yama of the Yoga Sutras are Non-Violence. Honesty. Not stealing. Not wasting energy. Not coveting.
Check out the poem I published on October 21, 2016, Satya, which is the Yama I’ve chosen to be my guiding principle.
What are your guiding principles? Is living with integrity important to you? How do you uphold your moral compass, when it seems to be getting in the way of what you want? Do you know of any poems that grapple with this subject of integrity? I’d love to hear...