“... everyone who comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as it is described. According to Don Juan, we have no memory of that portentous moment, simply because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else. From that moment on, however, the child is a member. He knows the description of the world; and his membership becomes full fledged, I suppose, when he is capable of making all the proper perceptual interpretations which, by conforming to that description, validate it ...”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Contents of Yoga Practice in Phases of Life

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This model offers a perspective on how the contents of a Yoga practice change as a function of age – from a practice that is dominated by asana (physical practice) at a young age to a practice that is dominated by meditation at an older age.

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In childhood and adolescence the practice is made up mostly of asana. This makes sense – if you think about children and young teenagers – it’s not practical to expect them to sit through elaborate and subtle Pranayama (breathing) and meditative practices. They need to be kept involved otherwise their attention gets pulled away. Asana is the primary tool used to keep them engaged.

Adult life is about creating a life – family, career, etc. There are many distractions and preoccupations. The body is not a supple as it used to be, and there is typically much less space and time for practice. Asana is a shorter practice and used mostly to prepare for Pranayama and meditation, which in turn provide a counter-balance to the business of life.

Old age is typically another major shift – from business to contemplation. As responsibilities take up less space, there is room for exploration. Departure and death become a more substantial part of life. This phase  of life leans towards a meditation.

This model depicts Pranayama as a key ingredient of Yoga practice. It is introduced early in life and maintained throughout. It evolves from a goal (of Asana practice) to a means of preparation and support for meditative practices. It also demonstrates that Yoga practice moves together with the cycle of life from gross to subtle.

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