What Bananarama taught me about Yoga

Bananarama in 1983

In the 1980’s girl band Bananarama teamed up with Fun Boy 3 to produce a catchy little hit which taught me most of what I know about Yoga postures: “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it… That’s what gets results” Remember it now?

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it… That’s what gets results”

This simple mantra taught me that the attitude and the qualities of mind that we bring to practicing yoga are at least as important as the poses we actually do. In fact the more I practice yoga (after 23 years and counting now, I’ve done quite a lot!) I think our attitude is more important as the real yoga happens between our ears, not winding our legs behind our neck.

Every Yoga teacher has learnt about Sthirasukhamasanam in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which teaches us that all postures should share the joint quality of alertness or steadiness combined with ease and comfort. BKS Iyengar taught that mastery of a pose came when all effort in the pose dissolved.

This approach when doing yoga postures dictates the results and success of your practice in so many ways; It helps keeps us centred and humble and will avoid causing us injury or strain. It gives us a rewarding context or method of approaching yoga where the journey towards touching your toes is more enlightening than actually reaching them. And we learn to observe our thoughts (such as likes or dislikes) as we go about our practice, and the best way to maintain that balance is a focus on your breathing so it stays calm and regular.

Our attitude is more important than technique and our mindset is more important than flexibility

What Bananarama taught me so vividly was that in Yoga, our attitude is more important than technique and our mindset is more important than flexibility. And yet so many classes and well-meaning yogis strive for the ultimate physical expression of yoga and forget that enlightenment has no physical location and can’t be measured in increments of flexibility or technique. They have focused on “what you do” rather than “the way that you do it.” We often forget that enlightenment has no physical location and can’t be measured in increments of flexibility or technique.”

Enlightenment has no physical location and can’t be measured in increments of flexibility or technique.

My friend Tim Mitchell is a wonderful and wise Ayurvedic chef and Vedic Meditation teacher who laughs at our Western obsession with the purest ingredients for our diet. Sourcing just the right organic herbs to go with bio-dynamic wholefoods, all picked under a full moon by fair-trade workers to help you make the perfect “healthy” meal is not that important.

Instead he reminds us the most important aspects of healthy eating (according to Ayurveda) is dictated firstly by the state of mind of the eater: if you are calm, happy, relaxed, grateful and focused as you eat then almost anything will nourish you and support balance. (When did you last put down your phone or book or stop chatting and just eat mindfully?)

The second vital ingredient is the state of mind of the chef. No matter how fresh and pure the ingredients, if the chef is having a bad day and cursing every action in a foul mood, then prana in your food will be reduced.

A distant third in importance for your diet is what you actually cook or prepare; the ingredients themselves. Yes, of course they matter, but according to Ayurveda, rather less than the outlook of the eater and the cook. Just like your asanas or postures!

So enjoy my favourite yoga mantra by Bananarama and follow their toe-tapping guide to happiness and success in your practice.

 

By Mark O’Brien April 2016
Mark is the founder of Qi Health & Yoga and has practiced Yoga for 23 years with over 10,000 teaching hours under his belt and holds Senior/Level 3 membership of Yoga Australia.

His teaching is lively and often irreverent using a gentle but intense Vinyasa style laced with practical insights and philosophical ideas to lead the body and mind to receive the profound benefits of yoga.

When not with his family and beloved cat Schpood, he regularly leads trainings and retreats around Australia and overseas. He’s planning a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in 2017.

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