Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feeling the joy

The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyon are probably the fastest long distance runners in the world. Christopher McDougall is a runner who was constantly injured from running and decided to live and study with the Tarahumara Indians. They run barefoot or in the simplest shoes and are extremely healthy and joyful. His experiences are documented in his book "Born to Run".

When asked what are some of the secrets you learned from them he replied, “The key secret hit me like a thunderbolt. It was so simple, yet such a jolt. It was this: everything I’d been taught about running was wrong. We treat running in the modern world the same way we treat childbirth—it’s going to hurt, and requires special exercises and equipment, and the best you can hope for is to get it over with quickly with minimal damage.

Then I meet the Tarahumara, and they’re having a blast. They remember what it’s like to love running, and it lets them blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves. For them, running isn’t work. It isn’t a punishment for eating. It’s fine art, like it was for our ancestors. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle—behold, the Running Man.”

When we practice yoga with joy we are experiencing true yoga. If we practice yoga like it is something we must do and treat it like a competition we miss the true essence of yoga. If your neck feels tight and you are holding your breath, pause. Find the place where you can expand and feel the softness. Find your inner joy. Let that feeling radiate throughout your body. Express joy in your pose.

Remembering joy and having a playful attitude is the key to less injury, achieving more and experiencing our true nature. Sure, there will always be times where we forget our joy, when things are tough and when we feel alone. But just as everything in nature pulses, we can always return to the joy of the abundance of life. Letting go and being able to go with the flow is key to feeling the joy. Releasing expectations is difficult but it holds a freedom and yields many benefits. Believe in your innate beauty. Return to simplicity to experience the complexity of nature. Find abundance in the seemingly mundane. Align with nature to run with the wind.


  1. Greta post, isn't this so missing in Yoga at times these days?!

  2. Yes, if yoga does not have the joy in the pose we miss a big part of yoga. The ultimate goal of yoga is to feel a lightness and expansion, not to take yoga or ourselves too seriously or try to get into the perfect pose.