I want to promote Yoga as art form. That is Yoga as one of the many arts, skills and creative activities pursued by human beings throughout our history, such as music, dance, painting, building, construction and craft-work, enjoyed as part of the cultural heritage of humanity. It is a creative act and Yoga is an art that we can engage with, take part in, transform ourselves with. Here we have the yogin or yogini as artist or perhaps artisan would be more accurate.
One could talk of art as a movement or the process toward a greater harmony and beauty. I would like to suggest that Yoga can be seen as an aesthetic experience. The body takes up various shapes and forms and when performed well and with care can be really beautiful to do, to perform. Here we can think of balance, poise, grace and precision. Moving through a sequence of postures gracefully and mindfully, we can develop a sense of aesthetic appreciation of what we are doing as we do it, simply as an activity in itself, regardless of the material or utility benefit the practice may also have. There is an important link here to the cultivation of Wisdom which I will come to later.
We can also think in terms of expressing ourselves through our Yoga practice, expressing the beauty of form, making shapes, being present to our experience, enjoying this expression.
In the Buddhist path to awakening, the end or fruit of practice is talked about as wisdom or prajna. Wisdom is the seeing of things as they really are, the direct apprehension of Reality, which suggests we don't usually see things as they really are. We tend to see things in terms of a hardened sense of me over here and it over there. There is a strong sense of separation between perceived objects and people and ourselves. The Reality is that things are deeply and profoundly interconnected and interrelated. Each and every thing conditions each and every other thing and we are no exception.
I am also concerned with art as spiritual practice, that is art that conduces to higher states of consciousness and further, Insight into how things really are.
So there is an important connection with art and wisdom, prajna. Prajna has been translated as analytical aesthetic appreciation and vidya, opposite to avidya, ignorance, translated as aesthetic appreciation. To approach 'things as they really are' requires a shift from the more utilitarian, acquisitive mode of being to a more appreciative, non-acquisitive mode. Rather than just seeing our yoga class as a means to stretching out tired muscles and chilling out for a bit we could consider our Yoga practice as a means to shifting into or towards a completely different way or mode of being. A mode of being which is freer, more present and closer to Reality. We can loosen the hardened sense of separation between subject and object.
Like all arts to become skilled in Yoga requires practice, it requires discipline and in order to perfect one's art one needs to apply effort, will and determination. We need to come back again and again to our practice, repeated the same movements again and again looking to work more effectively, more deeply each time, or simply see where we are this time.