Yoga - Form and Essence - Vince's Story

Vince began practicing yoga in his twenties and loved it. He worked hard at his asana practice and very soon became one of the most adept students in his class. Vince was also very short tempered and impatient but was seen as someone who was strong, and was always able to push through and make things happen.

Nobody would ever describe Vince as a happy person. He had a stern look on his face and if you looked closely enough you could sense a person in emotional pain. Success was important to Vince.

All of these attitudes came to the mat with him. He gave himself two weeks to get his forehead to his toes in the sitting forward bend and got there with days to spare by pushing his body through the pain and practicing the posture for hours each day.

He became a teacher, and because of his incredible physical flexibility and prowess as a yogi in the physical arena, was featured in a prominent industry magazine.

I met him on the conference circuit and over several years got to know him just a little. Interestingly, he had attracted a following of students who were in many ways just like him – driven to succeed and focused on attaining perfection with the physical form.

Ten years after meeting Vince his conversation had not changed. He was still frustrated with many aspects of his life, still striving for perfection in all things, and still criticizing his students for not working hard enough.

To me there are two very important aspects to one's practice – the “form” and the “essence”. Vince focused on the form almost exclusively and as a result missed most of the benefits that the essence might have brought to his life.

Now I’m not saying that form is not important. It is! We do need to know how to work with our bodies - no question. But form is really only a tool, not an end in itself.

As well as good form we also need to learn how to engage the practice of yoga in ways that take us to deeper levels of awareness at emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. If we are obsessed with the form of the practice, this is unlikely to happen.

Read about an approach to Yoga Therapy that incorporates both form and essence to facilitate deeper levels of awareness in the mental and emotional realms as well as the physical. Also read about yoga and emotions.

Return to Yoga for Stress Management