30 Days of Yogi Wisdom – Day 3 featuring Swami Kripalu

yoga quote from swami kripalu

“The body is stimulated by proper exercise which both strengthens and relaxes. We all must travel a long distance in this physical body. If we do not care for it, how can we reach our goal?”

Swami Kripalu’s advice reminds me of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, ‘Sthira Sukha Asanam’ which can be interpreted as ‘yoga is the balance of effort and ease’. So many of us in the West have been taught that yoga is a form of intense physical exercise. That it’s a way to sweat and exert our muscles. The ancient aspect of yoga that often gets missed is that when done correctly, the posture practice of yoga (called asana) is relaxing. Sure, it is also strengthening and can be great exercise, but that is not the whole picture.

The old yogis, like Swami Kripalu, remind us that yoga is only done correctly (or in alignment with the ancient tradition) when there is a sense of ease or relaxation involved in expressing the postures. The yogis believe that exercise is only beneficial if one is able to breathe freely and move from a state of calm.

I sometimes wonder if Swami Kripalu would be horrified to see what happens under the banner of ‘yoga’ in so many gyms and studios in the West today. Our culture is driven by the desire to get the most bang for our buck. So, there is this draw to classes that encourage over-exertion, over-stretching, and extremely high intensity. I get that. Our lives are ‘busy’ and we only have so much time to get the perfect body and reach enlightenment. And, while it’s understandable to some extent and the exercises resemble the movements of yoga, if we don’t relax during the practice, it is not the yoga Swami Kripalu speaks of.

This is my interpretation of today’s yogi wisdom – what’s yours? Let’s have a conversation in our Facebook Group! (if you’re not a member yet, just click join)

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