In the past few years I have become interested in cooking. I have always enjoyed baking cookies and cakes, but now I am starting to play with combinations of grains, vegetables and spices, as well as mixtures of colors and textures.
I have a number of cookbooks and regularly search for recipes on the Internet. Most of the new recipes are accompanied by pictures. With the picture and list of ingredients, I can usually imagine what the dish will look and taste like, but there have been some notable exceptions. Although my ability to envision dishes is improving, my imagination can never match smelling, tasting, and feeling the texture of a meal.
In addition, I learn something with every meal I cook. When experimenting with new techniques, blends of spices, and combinations of ingredients, I find methods and tastes that I like, and some that I will never repeat. While I occasionally watch cooking shows for enjoyment, I usually have to practice what I have seen to gain the full benefit.
As the owner of the yoga studio, I am typically asked a few times a year by people who have never done yoga whether they can observe a class. I always direct them to try a free sample class instead. The sample classes are representative of the regular classes, but very basic. The teacher explains what yoga is about and leads the students through a class.
All classes begin with centering where one focuses the mind on the flow and rhythm of the breath. As thoughts of the day fade, the mind and body calm. Next, the class moves into a series of basic poses. Moving and stretching in the various postures often creates a feeling of openness, strength, and wellbeing. The class ends with final relaxation where the instructor guides the class in softening and releasing each part of the body. As one relaxes, the limbs begin to feel heavy and the mind quiets. Focusing and calming your mind, then feeling your body move and finally settle is entirely different than watching a roomful of people and imagining what it would be like. Observation falls far short of the experience.
Even after twenty years of practicing yoga, whenever I take a class or workshop, including those at beginning levels, or when I practice at home, I learn. Sometimes it is a new way of doing a pose or a better understanding of my body. Occasionally there is a flash of understanding, a “light bulb moment”, where something I have read or heard about before suddenly makes sense. These realizations would never occur if I was not actively doing the practice. It has to be lived.
Yoga is considered an experiential discipline, and one cannot get the full experience by simply watching or reading about it. Similarly, looking at pictures of food may make your mouth water, but it is much more pleasurable to eat the meal. Life is richer for the experiences we have. Although it is often easier to sit back and watch, we miss so much when we do. Instead of being an observer of life, participate, experience and enjoy.