One way I address the Yoga paradigm in comparison to the Western paradigm is to simply say that Yoga never separated mind/body/spirit. There are many, many, many schools of Yoga, so it is often inaccurate to talk about Yoga as any one thing- but I think it would be safe to say that all schools of Yoga would agree that mind/body/spirit are inseparable and while different focuses can be useful- they are completely interwoven dimensions of our being.
In the West, we separated and compartmentalized these elements more and more. It began most obviously in the 1600’s, the periods described as the Age of Enlightenment or Reason. In these times a pronounced separation occurred- particularly regarding the subjects of religion and theology from other fields of inquiry such as philosophy and material science. There is so much interesting history here, history that very much has modern relevance- but to keep it simple, our Western paradigm does not create a platform that necessarily integrates mind/body/spirit or is comfortable with their associations.
I believe this is why average, stressed out people are often so delighted by yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices. When they “click”, when they seem to “work”, for people- what they are experiencing is an integrated state that is not fostered in our daily life and not easy to come by accidentally. Without questioning it too much, thinking about it too much, something happens when we practice that gives us relief and a deeper sense of grounding.
In my teaching I think of this as the spiritual dimension of practice- the transition from a thinking state to a feeling state to an aware state. I’m not trying to facilitate a spiritual experience, I am simply encouraging you to fully experience this moment as it is unfolding. Bare awareness. This is both purely rational and scientific- pay attention to the present moment without reacting to whatever appears in the field of awareness- and a total surrender to the holy mystery. If I let go of the controls that normally mediate my direct experience, what will happen to me?
While the life of the mind and intellect and the exploration of the natural world can be deeply fascinating and fulfilling, it can likewise be perplexing and exhausting and unreal too. What Yoga reminds us of through practice and through its holistic perspective is that the mind needs to be connected to the body and the heart and the reality of the present moment. And this moment, when we bring bare awareness to it, is precious and holy and significant for reasons we will never be able to fully explain or rationalize.
The openness to Life Itself that we cultivate frees us from a great deal of conditioning and many inherent, and inherited assumptions…Life is not about answers. It is about learning to live in the middle of complete uncertainty, and doing so gracefully.
Natasha Korshak is a long-time teacher and trainer of yoga, meditation, mindfulness and MBSR, and has been working in the field of integrative health and wellness her entire professional career. She is a graduate of the Interfaith Theological Seminary and an ordained Interfaith Minister specializing in contemplative practice, grief processing, and spiritual direction. Her study and training of mind/body/spirit methods is extensive and she has learned from many of the pioneers in their discipline. As the founder and director of the Sol Center she is well regarded for her depth, warmth, authenticity, and the smile in her voice.