‘Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured’
This is a very famous quote from BKS Iyengar. He has written many books on yoga practice and philosophy including Light on Yoga. While much of modern yoga has arisen from the teachings of Krishnamacharya, Iyengar brought yoga to the West, along with it a passion for physical strength and flexibility. He also popularised the concept of the Indian Mystic.
But what of his quote?
Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured – yoga as a discipline, can help you heal aspects of your health through bodily function and posture. So for instance a really sore shoulder and tight neck muscles may take the joy out of life. Through yoga, this discomfort and pain will receed with time and you will no experience the drain on your energy.
So what happens when that shoulder won’t heal, and remains sore? What happens if you are very ill?
Yoga teaches us to endure what cannot be cured – Iyengar tells us that yoga helps us to cope with what we cannot change. He is not saying yoga is going to make every pain and illness go away. He is not saying yoga will cure cancer. What he does say is that yoga can help us cope in times of trouble. It can settle the mind, keep the body moving and reduce discomfort. It helps us to endure when a cure does not appear to be an option.
So how do we know the difference?
I think the truth is that often we don’t know the difference, we don’t have a crystal ball and most of us cant predict the future. So how do we know it’s the right thing for you, at this very moment?
How do you feel? Do you move a bit and feel worse? Do you do your yoga or your class and feel better?… and what is better?
Sometimes better is steadier, stronger, more grounded, humbled and serious… sometimes better is lighter, bouncier, free and full of laughter. Both are better, but they are different in many ways. They are the same in that after yoga you may feel that you are living more deeply, more fully. You will feel joy, you will feel sadness, and you will feel more fully alive. That is good yoga.