Do you ever feel like some people know something that you don’t? Does this make you paranoid? It could, or you could think it makes you curious. Curiosity gives you that drive to keep going, to figure out what you don’t yet know. I always say the greatest thing you can show up with on your yoga mat is curiosity. Your greatest asset in yoga is not your black Manduka mat (even though I do love it), or a cute outfit, or a yoga companion; but instead, it’s that insatiable need to ask more questions and always look for your own answers.
The definition of curiosity: “eager desire to know”. Oh, I love that! It is not defined as just a desire to know, because that is not enough. It’s the eagerness that makes it so great. This gets even better. I looked up the word eager: “enthusiastic”. Ok, we’re getting somewhere. Didn’t that just simply spell out why curiosity is your greatest life companion? We should be enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand our knowledge (vidya). Sadly, the greatest contradiction to this idea is, the old wives tale that “curiosity killed the cat.” Well, if a case of the curiosities is what I must die from, then I accept. I accept it enthusiastically!
In the Ashtanga yoga system, you would place curiosity under the second limb of the system – “niyama” or self observation. The practice of yoga should help you look at your interaction with your self more often. You will see patterns exposed and identify old schools of thought that maybe you have never challenged, maybe they were schools of thought handed down to you from your parents, or your environment. You took them to be true, without any self-study to find if those truths aligned and resonated with you, as you are now. The study of the self (svadhyaya) happens when you become curious. When you allow that curiosity to carry you into the deeper layers of the things you have been told to believe, and you start looking for the things that seem to resonate with you in that place we call our gut.
Our gut instinct should naturally occur. But it can be slowly squashed out of us when people make these statements: “You shouldn’t feel that way.” or “Because I said so.”. We have all heard it from so many different sources, and sometimes there is an inclination to go, “Ok, they must know something I don’t know.” Well, I say, challenge that. What do they know? How do they know it? Where did their information come from? It’s your 3-year-old brain I’m talking about. The 3-year-old brain is the one that digs for information relentlessly, right? Well hang out with a 3-year-old and it sure feels relentless! 🙂 What, how, why, when, where and repeat.
That is how life’s secrets are found: the things you feel your missing, the things no one is sharing with you. We live in a time where we are bombarded with information. But how much of what is coming at us, have we challenged? I am always surprised when people say to me: “I tried yoga, but I got bored.” I have never understood how boredom can happen in a yoga practice. We have approximately 656 muscles in the human body, and we have 206 bones. With over 858 parts moving in our bodies, there should be no time for boredom. Boredom comes from a lack of interest. A lack of interest can come from laziness (alasya)or aversion (abhinivesah), or from trusting that your yoga teacher knows more than you would about your own body. A yoga teacher should know many things about the body and how it best functions in different asana’s. However, you should never take someones word for it. If you haven’t first applied your three-year old brain to the things the teacher says.
Here’s an example of an internal dialogue of a curious yoga student: “Trikonasana pose – I wonder what that means? Ohh, 3 angled pose. Where are the angles? Oh, there they are. Why should my body be on one plane? Oh, because on two planes, I can’t receive a stretch to my tensor fascia latae muscle. What’s my tensor fascia latae muscle? Oh, it’s at the front top part of my ilium and attaches to my illiotibial band. Where does that go and what does that do? If my TFL muscle is tight, I wonder what problems it’s causing in my body? How does it affect my alignment of my 206 bones? If I can better stretch that how will I feel? When will I be able to grab my big toe? What would I need to do to grab my big toe?” This can go on for a while and after you have tried many things you will start to refine the postures you’re in. That refinement of your body will dispel ignorance (Avidya). You might also start to feel like people aren’t with-holding the secret. Then, you could realize that it doesn’t really matter how it looks, but more important, how it feels and why it feels that way?
Curiosity never really killed a cat. Not unless the cat’s name was “Doubt”. Because curiosity only kills doubt. Curiosity exposes the secrets you feel you have been missing. But it also creates secrets that you now know about your Self (Svadhyaya). I remember a big epiphany that I had. I was just getting ready to start my first yoga teacher training program of 9 ladies that were eager to learn. I was reviewing all my notes and nuggets of information I had learned, so far, in my study of yoga. I found my self grasping to my knowledge and not wanting to share it – out of fear that they might learn all the secrets I had worked so hard at uncovering. The little ego that exists inside all of us was afraid that if I gave it all away, I might not matter as much (which exposed another limb of the Ashtanga yoga system which is aparigrahah – non-greed). I only became the teacher I am now when I stopped coveting the information I have learned. When I openly and willing share all my secrets in hopes they will inform, in hopes they will dispel doubts, but also that they will be challenged.
So the Secret is…Don’t believe everything you are told until you have exhausted your self-study of how that information applies to you. Maybe you do need to be told, to move forward more, or to tilt your pelvis forward, or to exhale completely and then lift. But I promise, even with out those things that seem like secrets, you will figure it all out for yourself, if you just come at it with the eager desire to know!