The “Pie” of Yoga
I really like baked goods; many years ago as a sales rep I’d often plan my runs around being at a choice bakery around lunchtime (seriously). I can’t go past a well made spinach and feta pie, or a blackberry one if I’m feeling like something sweet (and a bit sour).
At first you’re attracted to bakery treats by the look of the pastry, the outer shell. And it’s only once you bite into it that you really know what’s going on inside, and whether or not the filling is both tasty, and nutritious. And it’s only through going to the same bakery week after week, month after month, year after year, that you discover whether or not the quality is consistent, or if perhaps there was just this one time when the stars aligned and a culinary diamond emerged from a surrounding of coal.
It occurred to me one day that Yoga is actually a lot like a pie. Asana (Yoga posture) is like the pastry of a pie; it’s the bit you can see from the outside, and it’s what initially draws many of us to the practice. And we might have heard that there’s more to Yoga than the pastry, just as a baker will tell us what’s inside their wares, but it’s not until we actually take a bite that we really know what’s on the inside. Pranayama and meditation are the “filling” of the Yoga pie; they’re the bits that provide the ongoing nourishment, the essence of what keeps us coming back again and again to feed our bodies, minds, and hearts from the fountain of this ancient practice.
Sadly, in this day and age there are a lot of Yoga practices, and Yoga practitioners, that are little more than an empty pastry case. Yes, they look pretty alluring sitting on the shelf in the warming oven of the internet or social media, and we can be tempted to part with our hard-earned and take a bite, only to discover that there’s nothing, or at least nothing of any real value, inside. And no matter how well a baker makes pastry, there’s a pretty limited amount of times you’ll eat an empty piece of dough before you get bored or dissatisfied, and look elsewhere for something with more substance and sustenance. It’s great to have a nice crust to your favourite pie, but it’s the stuff inside that’s the best bit!
So if you find yourself practicing with a teacher who is all about the pastry, no matter how good it may be, remember that you deserve so much more, something far more satisfying, enriching, and nourishing. Find a teacher who has good pastry, certainly, but one who also knows that it’s the not-so-visible parts of the practice that will ultimately fill your spiritual belly, and provide you with what you truly crave; the nourishment of your soul.
It’s time to stop eating the empty pie-crusts of Asana-focused yoga-cise, and take a hearty bite of the pranayama and meditation that will sustain you through this life (and beyond), whatever that may bring!
Now to find a good bakery… 😉
Image: Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan, edited by Franck Andre Jamme, published by Siglio 2011.