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Wabi Sabi and Yoga

By February 27, 2013April 16th, 2014Mindfulness, Yoga

Wabi-sabi, is that the green paste that lurks in my sushi box

It is not Japanese horseradish but a Japanese art form that is compatible with the two great philosophies of Taoism & Zen Buddhism and it sits beautifully with how I see Yoga.

The word wabi used to mean poverty but post 14th century it became connected not with the absence of material possession but non dependence on it; not unlike the yoga principles of detachment and equanimity.

If wabi is the lens through which to see things then sabi is the object (piece of art) of our attention.

Arielle Ford (columnist & blogger Huffington Post) first became enthralled with wabi-sabi art when she visited a Japanese art gallery and saw a vase with a spot light being shone purposefully on a crack that ran down the centre of the piece. Through a westerners eye that is conditioned to see beauty in perfection and symmetry this was a seminal moment of reevaluation for her. Like Wabi-sabi Yoga encourages us to see that we ( the object) are perfect the way we are, each one of us made in a uniquely beautiful ambiguous and irregular way. Like a tree grows short or tall, thin or thick leafy or crooked in the context of other trees, soil, water, rocks and like the vase with the illuminated flaw we must learn to appreciate our shadows as much as we do our light.

 Chan in his book, ‘Bonsai Master Class’ talks about the three principles of Wabi-sabi as simplicity, ‘the application of the minimum and the appropriate no more than is needed’.In Yoga we are encouraged to use our energy wisely to enhance and not distract from self exploration and compassion. The second principle tranquility suggests the quality of ‘feeling refreshed and touched within but with solace, calm not excitement or over stimulation’. Finally he talks about the principle of naturalness as being, ‘the avoidance of contrivance’.

Yoga like Wabi-sabi is a way to live that plays down the role of the intellect and accentuates an intuitive feel for life where relationships between people and their environments should be in harmony. Both philosophies embrace an inexhaustible interest in life as it unfolds with all of its accidents and bow in awe of the Universal flux of coming from and returning to.

“To be alone, it is a colour that cannot be named, the mountain where cedars rise into the autumn dusk”

Sources: poem by Jakuren, extracts from Andrew Juniper and Peter Chan.


Author Matt

I started YogaHub out of a room at the back of someone else's house back in 2012 with nothing more than an idea. I'd been teaching Yoga since 2008 and had no intention of opening a Yoga Studio. I think, like everything I've done, I just decided one day I was going to give it a try. And try I did and if you're reading this I guess I'm still trying.

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