All yoga techniques, from postures to meditation, breath work to chanting, are nothing more than tools.
Though admittedly they are powerful tools proven effective in creating monumental shifts in people's lives, they are simply tools nonetheless. Funny thing about tools though, no matter how effective a tool is, it can be misused--even to the point of moving you away from your goal instead of towards it.
Think of a hammer. It's a fabulously designed tool with a great many uses. But understanding how it's designed to work empowers you to use it in a way that optimally serves you.
Let's face it, you can swing a hammer using the handle or you can swing it using the head, you can hit something with the claw or you can hit something with the face, you can use it to build an adorable cottage or you can just as easily use it to bash one to smithereens.
And its no surprise that the way you swing the hammer is directly related to your knowledge of how it's designed to do what it does. Without this all important information, you're at risk of tearing down the very thing you're wanting to build. The same can be said of the tools of yoga. And sadly, the tools of yoga are more often than not used without the clear understanding of how they are designed to work.
To be clear, I'm not referring to how to perform a posture (which is more like what to do, than how its designed to work), but instead I'm referring to how the posture is designed to create more freedom, fulfillment, and empowerment in our lives. Unfortunately, this crucial question is one that few yoga practitioners are equipped to answer.
So here we are again: practice alone is not enough--that is if radical transformation is what you're after.
To be most effective, our practice must be mixed with an equal measure of understanding. Things like:
Understanding how the tools of yoga are designed to improve emotional regulation.
Understanding how the tools of yoga can be used to create greater resilience to stress.
Understanding how the tools of yoga are designed to develop sustained optimism and positivity. Understanding the many ways that we are likely to misuse the tools of yoga.
It is here where our own study and the aid of a mature teacher can pay off in spades. For when we are able to deliberately leverage the many hidden aspects of this ancient practice, it's then that we are truly poised to bring about great positive change in our lives and the world.
Eric Walrabenstein is a nationally-recognized speaker, teacher, and best-selling author of Waging Inner Peace. As one of the most sought-after authorities on the application of yogic technology for self healing and empowerment in the nation, Eric is the founder of one of Arizona’s largest yoga centers, and Arizona's first 500-hour Master-Level Yoga Teacher Training Program. At the core of all his work is the effort to make yoga's ancient wisdom and techniques practical and relevant for people from all walks of life. In addition to his work in his wellness center in Phoenix, Arizona, he is the creator of BOOTSTRAP, a yoga-based program to help troops and veterans heal from post traumatic stress, is an ordained Yogacharya (preceptor of yoga), and is currently finishing a book on the Science of Happiness.