Reason to BelieveMay 03, 2023
During a visit to my mother's house years ago, I left a yoga philosophy book lying around in the kitchen. When I returned a few hours later, she looked at me wistfully and said, “I was looking through your book. It must be so nice to believe what you believe.”
What an intriguing statement, don’t you think?
It got me reflecting about the nature of belief in yoga and the source of our faith in the practices.
In Sanskrit, faith is known as shraddha. It's meant to be based on our experience, born out by practice, and reinforced by self-reflection.
For example, if someone tells me that Half Downward-facing Dog can ease lower back pain, why should I believe them until I try it out? It’s only through repeatedly experiencing the benefits for myself that I've come to have full faith that when my lower back feels cranky, Half Downward-facing Dog helps. I trust it because it’s proven true for me time and time again.
The same principle applies to the more subtle practices of yoga. How can you trust that lengthening your exhalation will calm your mind? I don't think it's just through intellectual comprehension of the breath's connection to the nervous system. Rather, it's through experimentation and observing how the practice affects our personal experience that our faith is bolstered.
What convinces us that practicing gratitude can enhance our mood and perspective? By engaging in it and reflecting on its effects, we develop trust in its efficacy over time.
Everything we learn in our practice is meant to be put to the test in our experience. It's empowering to know that there’s nothing we need to take on blind faith and that we have the freedom to use only what works for us.
As we learn to rely on our experience and take ownership of our practice in this way, we become the experts on our own well-being. What a powerful realization! All it takes is our willingness to try things out and see what happens.