For a new practitioner, adopting a yogic lifestyle may seem to come with many new rules. However, Sadhguru explains, understanding the geometry of the human body is not a manmade rule, but a method of living with the least amount of friction.
Q: I’m in the Hatha Yoga teacher training. Here, we are looking at every detail, including how to sit properly, how and what to eat, and even how to breathe. Where is the line between making yourself joyful and making yourself miserable by trying to follow these new rules and regulations?
Sadhguru: First of all, these are no new rules and regulations. They are definitely not regulations. Maybe we can call them rules – that is one way of looking at it. In Indian culture, there have never been teachings. And God cannot give commandments to Indians, because they will argue. They will ask too many questions. When we were on the Kailash yatra, one of the Indian participants came up with a very complicated question. I said, “See, this is an Indian problem. You are thinking of how to come up with a more complicated question.” A Chinese lady concurred, “Yeah! I work for the United Nations, and I’ve always been wondering why only Indians ask questions.” We have a long tradition of questioning everything.
God sent his messenger and his son to other places, so people could claim that whatever rules they have were given by God, and no one dared to question that. Here, God himself came, and he even carefully selected whom to speak to. In spite of that, there were endless questions. You know how many questions Arjuna asked Krishna! It was not possible for Krishna to give Arjuna a commandment. He kept trying to convince him, but Arjuna was full of questions.
In Indian culture, we refer to that which governs life as the dharma. Gautama the Buddha referred to it as dhamma. Unfortunately, today people commonly misunderstand dharma as religion, but dharma means law – not a teaching, philosophy, belief system, or religion.
There are manmade laws that regulate different aspects of society and the world, so that it functions smoothly, to whatever extent possible. For instance, in India, you are supposed to drive on the left side of the street. This is not the ultimate truth, but an agreement that was made for the traffic to run smoothly. Another thing is the vehicles were built for that. Similarly, there are many laws and arrangements that regulate society, so that we do not collide with each other. But even before there were societies and manmade laws, life happened smoothly, and it evolved. For that to happen, there must be some fundamental laws governing it.
To give an example – if you walk into the jungle, you may not be able to figure out its laws, but the jungle has existed for millions of years. For it to last so long without annihilating itself or all the creatures annihilating each other, there must be some laws governing it. In this culture, people paid attention to what these laws are that govern the universe, our inner nature, and the process of creation. And people figured this out – not by imagination, not by belief, but by sheer observation of various dimensions of life.
How to sit is not something I invented. The human body is made in a certain way. The way Nandi sits in front of Dhyanalinga is the right way for a bull. But you have come as a human being, so the geometry of your body is different. All physical things and physical aspects of life have a geometric basis. If you understand the geometry of something physical – whether it is a human body, a bull, or even a mechanical item – you will know how to use it to its optimum.
Every other creature on the planet figured out the geometry of their body and how to use it to the fullest extent. Only human beings do not do that, because they are paying attention to everything except themselves. So the instructions in Isha Hatha Yoga are not new rules. If you pay attention to the geometry of your body, you will sit and stand in a particular way so that your body functions with minimum energy and maximum impact. The efficiency of physical existence depends on your understanding of the geometry. In other words, you are moving from social imitation to awareness.
If we remove all the furniture, you will discover the geometry of your body. The same applies to food. The human system is designed for a certain type of food. But in pursuit of survival, or because of cultural influences, people may have eaten all kind of things. Originally, if someone ate a slab of meat in certain parts of the world, it was for survival, not by choice. Maybe they could not grow anything there, or they did not know agriculture. Only later, it became a choice, or you could say part of their culture. If it is a question of survival, it is perfectly fine. It is not a moral issue. It is just that if you put the wrong fuel into the system, you cannot expect efficiency.