Your yoga practices may not look anything like your smart phone or the coffeemaker on your kitchen counter that can do almost everything except cook your oatmeal. But yoga is by definition, a technology: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. I’d venture even further and say that yoga is a true technology—that is, yoga can free us. My smart phone or that coffeemaker? Anything that breaks or goes out of date doesn’t liberate.
As a technology, yoga is definitely old school. We practice without worries about power outages, low batteries, internet connectivity, satellite coverage, upgrades, or obsolescence. When it comes right down to it, we don’t even need mats, cushions, or stretchy pants. Who hasn’t stopped on a beach for an unplanned, ocean-facing Warrior Pose or sat on a rock for a few minutes of impromptu meditation?
Typically, we use technology to alter the external environment for our comfort and convenience. With yoga technology, we learn how to alter the inner environment. For example, as temperatures rise in summer, we can opt to switch on the A/C…or to practice cooling techniques like shitali pranayama. When pollen makes me sneeze, I can take an antihistamine, or use a neti pot. If anxiety keeps me awake, I could take a pill, or practice soothing asanas and pranayamas known to relieve insomnia.
Sure, yoga technology is slower than flipping a switch or popping a pill. But yoga helps us harmonize rather than compete with nature. Sankhya, a naturalistic philosophy based on a universal map, underpins yoga and Ayurveda. The “fuel” for both is prana, or life force. It’s odorless, colorless, and carbon neutral. The longer you practice yoga, the more you become aware of the movement of prana. This is true whether you’re seeking the most appropriate, energy-enhancing alignment in a particular asana or choosing foods—and situations—that help you feel vibrant and alive.
Unlike pills or plug-ins, yoga practices require our active, mindful participation. That may not always be convenient or comfortable, but the result is that these practices teach us the importance of presence and self-reliance. That’s empowering. In fact, living a yogic lifestyle can be a form of activism—a resounding “No” vote to corporate overreach, media hype, or mindless consumerism.
Nor do you have to give up the wonders of modern conveniences like smart phones or food processors to become established in yoga’s old school technology. When we use yoga to effect change, starting with ourselves, we become warriors off the mat as well as on. Many years ago, Swami Satyananda Saraswati predicted: “Yoga is going to emerge as a mighty world culture. It will change the course of world events.”
How has your yoga practiced empowered you?