Over the last fifteen years I have been practicing yoga. I was drawn to yoga as a remedy for the adverse effects of the activities I had been doing. I was drawn to yoga because yoga is a different way. By practicing yoga I have changed for the better in my body, in my outlook and in my relationships with other people. A different way, yoga, is a better way.
In late 2009 I was lent a beaten up old copy of Journey into Power. I did not read it. I did not like the cover. Margo read it and told me to do the same. The person who lent it to me was a yoga teacher – not in the style set out in Journey into Power. She told us the author, Baron Baptiste, was going to be running a training programme in Australia in February 2010 and that she was going. Margo told me to go to. So I did. My life changed.
Journey into Power:
In 2021 Baptiste re-issued Journey into Power with a new introduction. In the new edition he says:
Early on in my own pursuit of personal growth and physical fitness training I hit a crossroads in my journey. I had a choice: I could either take the more traditional, conventional, and socially accepted approach to health, fitness, and peak performance or take the road less travelled. Today, I look back and think, thank God I took a different path. Thank God I had the wherewithal to step outside the conventional wisdom of the day, which was lifting weights, cardiovascular conditioning, and a low-fat diet.
Most people stay on this path for the rest of their lives, not understanding that as time goes on, this one dimensional way of training combined with typical acts of daily living cause our bodies to become tighter, stiffer, unbalanced, and therefore more susceptible to injury and general fatigue.
How right he is. I see so many people losing ground physically and blaming age. I see people falling into a rut mentally and spiritually and supposing that a new partner in their bed or a new car in their garage will solve their existential woes. All the while they do the things that Baptiste talks about. They push weights as if bicep size equates to health. They ride expensive road bikes but their bellies hang over their belts. Such people seek solace in entertainments that are actually just distractions.
A warning – not an example:
I knew someone who was a professional trainer. He was highly committed to the process Baptiste calls the “traditional, conventional, and socially acceptable” approach. He was brought into yoga class and, across the space of a year, did about 25 classes. Then he stopped. He found yoga hard. He struggled to get up and down off the floor. The back bends and hip opening poses stressed his unyielding implement of a body that he had trained as a blunt instrument.
He gave up the strengthening, mobilising and calming way of yoga in favour of the “one dimensional” methods that he was so familiar with. And he got to not only stay tight and resistant but grow even tighter and more resistant. A blinkered view condemned him to the outcomes Baptiste describes and continues to deny him access to holistic health and vitality.
He was certainly fit in his own way. He was strong in his way. But if someone cannot tie their own shoes or get down onto the floor and back up again or twist and bend to pick up a bag of groceries without seizing up, one wonders what value some types of fitness and strength are to a person.
Traditional, conventional and socially acceptable:
Those who have gone the “traditional, conventional, and socially acceptable” way are not regular yoga students. They are my former colleagues, my former team-mates and my former peers at school and university. The cost of their way of life is worn in the way their bodies function. These are lost people, stuck in a routine that is failing them and bewildered as to how to get out. Such are the people who need yoga but will not try.
They do not try because they have a preconceived notion of what yoga is – and their notion is so utterly flawed it belongs in the realms of toxic misinformation. These people do not try yoga because they have committed so far to the wrong path that they see no way back.
There has, for many decades, been a societal indoctrination to a form of fitness based on pushing tin, doing cardio until all you can do is gasp through your mouth while at the same time prizing a certain physique that does not belong to everyone. They have been indoctrinated to the socially acceptable way. What a shame. There is a saying, “No matter how far you go down the wrong path, turn back”.
I recently taught a private session to employees of a nearby law firm. On the way out, one said they had not been looking forward to the session. I asked why and they said it was because they don’t do yoga and did not think they would be good at it. But they found they did enjoy it. “I really enjoyed that” she said. In so doing she acknowledged the error of a misapprehension of yoga. Rather than being slow and boring and being all about stretching, she found yoga could be dynamic, strengthening, mobilising and fun.
What I learned on the wrong path:
I have been down the wrong path. I used to train for everything by hitting the roads to run myself into fitness. Once I reached a certain age, late in high school and through my twenties, it became important to have more physical presence and strength. So I got into a gymnasium and pushed weights – with no particularly great results.
Once I gave up rugby as a sport I ran for fitness and I could run well enough. But my strength was not a comprehensive strength across my whole body. Nor was my fitness good for me as a whole. I developed tightness injuries which really did scream out that my methods were not working. It was in response to that screaming that I began yoga. As Baron Baptiste says, thank God that I did.
If you are present, there is ample evidence as to what is or is not working for you. Have the courage to take the way that is not so well entrenched in the minds of the populace. Baptiste speaks of what came to him after he chose the path less travelled. A California state championship in Tae Kwan Do. Participation in a junior Olympics as a boxer. Yoga teacher to the celebrities of Los Angeles. Member of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL training group. He has attempted much and achieved much on the back of his work on his yoga mat in practice and in meditation.
Yoga is a different way:
You, too, can accomplish much if you commit to yoga as your way. It may not be what you have been indoctrinated to believe is traditional, conventional and acceptable. But it offers growth and expansion into wider spheres. There was a famous heavyweight boxer once who broke bones in one hand in a number of fights until effective repair became unfeasible. It was decided to set his hand in a fist so he could keep on boxing. His hand was useless for anything else but he could punch. The traditional, conventional and acceptable way is like fixing oneself into a tight, clenched state, physically and mentally.
Practice asana/posture and create and sustain functional strength and mobility in your body your whole life long. Breathe with presence and develop the capacity to relax and reset your nervous system. Meditate and centre your mind away from the distraction and worry of thought. Apply philosophy and wisdom to your way of being and be a better person. Yoga will enrich your whole life. The traditional, conventional and socially acceptable way will produce different results. Be careful, they may not be the ones you want in the end.