Here is how any given practice is said to work: it is supposed to put you in touch with the nature of experience. Who cares what form any particular practice takes. If it works, it’s able to remove some delusion.
The proposed, sought-after nature of experience is:
process, interconnection, rhythm
AKA: no-self, can't get no satisfaction, and transitoriness.
In vipassana, once you move out of the concentration practices that make the mind useful for seeing stuff with a bit less of the residue of fear and self-protection and jittery idiocy that’s normal for us humans, then you start parsing experience in to bits. And once the parsing begins to happen, even as flow and love arise, you’re often experiencing experience as just as (in still other words):
movement, contingency, and passing away.
Daniel Ingram puts it like this. You begin to realize that experiences don’t last, don’t satisfy, and ain’t you.
But what if you do a practice in a way that actually shows the opposite? You channel all your energy away from service and family and study, and in to some weird, intense activity that you experience as self-defining, massively satisfying, and a fountain youth?
So, parsing experience coarsely not in to subtle moments but big fat asanas, you take your increasingly advanced ashtanga as a practice of self-definition (I am my X series), as a ticket to permanence (if I do this I will live longer than anyone else) and satisfaction (I really get off on this shit).
So one may believe on an intellectual level in all this woo-woo shit about impermanence and the limits of the small self, but really what he is doing for hours a day on his mat (and what he uses most of his energy and caloric intake to confirm) is quite the opposite. The practice lasts, satisfies, and is you.
No wonder it’s so awesome!
Wouldn’t it be kind of ironic, then, to pass off that practice as something sort of morally and spiritually edified? Wouldn't it be hilarious if the people who were especially wrapped up in asana perfection were also the ones assumed to be most spiritually insightful?
Wouldn’t it be kind of a joke to expect insight to arise unless it were intentionally, bravely pursued despite the increased incentives and tools for avoiding it?
Svadhyaya doesn't happen by itself, yo.
Thanks, Karen, for most of this perspective…