Photo taken in Mysore, India
Musashi Miamoto was a Samurai who lived in the 1700s and made his mark in history when he left behind a book titled The Complete Book of the Five Rings, which lays down the concept of Bushido, or The Way of the Warrior. What is interesting about the method in which he writes is that it is short and simple, but he always asks the reader to reflect deeply on what he is saying. What he points out has resonated with me heavily and ties very well into the concepts of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali.
Musashi goes to great lengths to illustrate that there is no difference in “The Way” of the Warrior and “The Way” of the Carpenter. “The Way” is “The Yoga.” In his book he defines the concept using another concept called “The Strategy,” which in his frame is the idea of the battle field. You could substitute the “Strategy” with a word like “Technique.”
I often comment that Yoga teaches us to be the ultimate expression of adaptation. What allows us to do this is the “Technique” of yoga which can be brought into our day to day life. This technique helps us find calm so that our choices come from clarity and not from the clutter of distractions and fears that have made their way into our consciousness.
On the battle field, Musashi employed “The Strategy” to stay calm and make clear choices to serve the battle. The battle has now moved off the field and into our minds, which is where the real war rages. His concept of “The Way” or “The Strategy” was just a method that could be used in any circumstance and it would help you excel at whatever you chose to be in this world. It would also teach you the skills to take on any challenge and adapt to even things you were never trained to do.
In Miamoto's case, focusing his efforts and training on being the best swordsman also taught him to be a great artist. Nobody showed him how to be an artist but what he learned from “The Way” then translated into other things. The Yoga or the Technique, then, becomes a method of practice that can change us at our very core and help us rise to our potential.
All of this to help the reader understand that if “The Technique” we use on our mat is then applied off the mat, it can help us in anything that we do or have to take on. We should not look at the poses as some physical endeavor but rather a vehicle for teaching us “The Technique.” Areas where our superficial sense might look at concepts like alignment and frame a pose as right or wrong based on this “alignment” fail to see that the word “alignment” should be replaced by “technique” or “tools of technique.” For example, the “The Way” or “The Technique” for yoga practice is:
Breath — Breath is to be done steadily with sound, the inhale and exhale with same intensity.
Posture — Poses should be done with a feeling of lightness, not burdened, while observing the breath and bandhas.
Gaze — Our gaze should reflect a calm but focused practitioner. The eyes do not wander, but remain fixed across the nose and into the void. Forehead should be soft, all signs of stress absent in facial expressions.
“The Technique” when injured, tired, or tight are as above. The alignment, or anatomical expression, needs to remain adaptive and void of our hard coded ideas. Mastering the qualities of “The Technique” is then how we find stability in our practice, but it is also how we become a better artist or deal with stressful co-workers. “The Technique” is ultimately how we learn and understand the greatest of our challenges: the Ego. It’s the tools we use to become the superheroes of the world.
In the beginning there is no reason for us to understand why or even how this works. The words in this article and the words in the “The Compete Book of the Five Rings” are not enough to explain this idea and in truth no words are sufficient. “The Way” can only be learned through focused effort. We must practice as both Musashi and Patanjli describe; daily and with no attachment to the outcome of our efforts. As Musashi says, “We must contemplate on this well.”