Paradox Of Freedom
Practicing yoga naturally leads to a philosophical evaluation of the nature of human freedom if you open your mind to it. This is one of the first steps on the road towards Samadhi, which is the parallel to Buddhist enlightenment where you experience your true Self as being one with the universe. I am not claiming to have reached Samadhi but would like to make some observations about freedom as experienced on the yoga mat.
If you ask most Westerners if they believe themselves to be free, their answer will invariably be yes. But one of the intrinsic paradoxes of being human is that we are bounded by our physical bodies, mental capabilities, and perceptions. We are actually only free to act and think within these bounds. Freedom is largely a fabrication and is based on our subjective view of the world. If a soaring eagle could talk, think how it would mock your limited concept of physical freedom. From the perspective of the universe, is there much of a difference, or any difference at all, between a small wave gently lapping against the shore and a tidal wave crashing upon a coastline? Most of our concepts about the world are relative.
You experience this in a visceral way while practicing asanas because you are bounded by the length and width of your mat yet you become increasingly free to move your body into shapes and positions that most people could not imagine. As you gain mastery you see that a seemingly tiny increase in flexibility from the outside is quite monumental for you. And as you increase the meditative quality of your practice you become free to clear your mind of outside thoughts and distractions, inhabiting the moment fully. These are freedoms that most people do not enjoy, yet they occur in bounded space.
If you let them, the realizations gleaned during your practice will start to influence the way you see other areas of your life. You will become more consciously aware of your abilities and limitations. You will not get caught up in whether your achievements are big or small, but see them for what they are, as achievements. And you will feel increasingly capable to confront all of life’s challenges as you continuously confront the challenge of yoga. Without the ability to confront challenges you cannot consider yourself free in any sense of the word. All of these ideas are philosophical but the concrete practice of yoga makes them real and leads you up the road towards Samadhi.