I have an unexpected, playful answer to the question, What is yoga?
Baseball, yogis, it’s baseball.
You see, it is now October. Which means, in the best interest of my soul, I’m kickin’ Wall Street to the curb for now. Because during this month each year, my meditation practice includes watching the World Series, and my yoga mat is diamond-shaped.
I love baseball for the very reason those who hate it, hate it (same is true of my love of cats). “It’s too slow.” “It’s boring.” “Nothing is happening.” My take = it’s about the subtleties, the nuances of the present moment. So is yoga. Contrary to what many beginning (and even continuing) practitioners believe, the more “advanced” the yogi, the more subtle the practice. Extravagant, flamboyant poses do not necessarily an advanced yogi make.
In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes about the stilling of the mind, quieting the waves of the chockfull storehouse of our thoughts. Just watch an exchange among pitcher, catcher, and batter (even a comedic one). Patanjali mentions asana in only three sutras, 2:46-2:48, and they all could be applied to what happens in baseball.
The first sutra on asana (asana means seat–what else is the pitcher’s mound?), 2:46, is on how to do asana–with steadiness and ease. It is to remain in a “good place,” or sukha, and not let anything in your space. Sutra 2:47 tells us how to master asana, which is to while in that good space, meditate on the infinite. Loosening your effort into the infinite… The final asana sutra, 2:48, illumines what happens when we do master asana in this way: you will not be pulled off base by the pairs of opposites, or those things which we tend to either harbor or avoid.
The Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals have practiced their way to the 2011 World Series. At least to some degree, it was by mastering those sutras. One may have to observe closely to see it this way, but that is exactly my point.
Baseball is brilliantly subtle, while vastly complex.
It is filled with nuance, defined by detail, and when made manifest by its true adepts, is an equanimity of fearlessness and joy… Just like yoga. Yoga is skill in action. Baseball, too, possesses the quietude, timelessness, and the opportunity for stillness which defines such skillful action. (But that is another scripture up my pin-striped sleeve, The Baseball Gita). If you’d like to be prepared, dear student, get out your Gitas.
Do I have any fellow “baseball is yogic” fans? There are some fantastic baseball metaphors ripe for yoga teachers, what are yours? Let’s play ball! (Er, yoga.) I’ll leave you with one of my favorite yoga teaching mantras, one that is honored by the best hitters in the business of baseball:
Be Patient at the Plate.