An intention determines the actions that we take. It's like a roadmap in which we plan the best route. If our intention in practicing yoga asana is to build physical strength, then we may challenge ourselves all the time, go for the most difficult option, practice the poses we are working on even after class is over.
If our intention in practicing yoga is liberation, which is what "mukti" in Jivamukti means, then one thing we must learn to do is gain perspective by way of careful observation. The word "sakshi" is Sanskrit for witness. To become a sakshi, we learn to observe things as they are- without denying, without minimizing, without exaggerating, without blowing out of proportion, without dramatizing, without putting a lot of ego.
It sounds like a simple concept, but it is a difficult practice. I know that sometimes when in a pose I struggle with, my thought bubble would be "This pose is killing me", which is of course an exaggeration. I have not heard of death by arm balance, and yet in my egocentric subjective experience, I choose that as my reality. There is a loss of perspective when my ego takes over that does not help my intention to be liberated.
Whether one wants to be liberated or not, gaining perspective is a very practical skill to have. It spares us from day-to-day stress. For example, we may feel really good after taking a yoga class, but once we are on the road back home, we start to get agitated with the atrocious Manila traffic. If we practice gaining perspective and putting objectivity into this situation, we will realize that our point A is having taken a yoga class which we are grateful for, and point B is going back to a beautiful home which we are lucky to have. Now we are merely going from point A to point B, both of which are wonderful things, and yet we choose to be irritable and hot-tempered? That's a loss of perspective.
When we start to observe that much of our suffering comes from our own ignorance and lack of perspective, we will come to the conclusion that our suffering is self-inflicted. Liberation then becomes more accessible. If we were the ones holding us back from being happy, then we too are responsible for our own happiness. All of the negativity that we bestow on ourselves? We can choose to let them go. We choose to let all of them go.
I think it is great that many yoga practicioners are serious about asana, but I sometimes wonder if the desire to perfect certain poses is actually getting in the way of liberation. If we beat ourselves up or start to feel competitive or become a show-off, we have lost our perspective- that yoga asana provides us with such a rich landscape in which we become sakshi to our inner lives.
We practice asana so we can hone our skills of observation so we can gain perspective on what it means to be liberated. When we are able to put things in perspective, then it becomes logical that if we want to be happy and free, then we give happiness and freedom to all beings. If our intention is to be liberated, we consult our roadmap to liberation. We take the route of compassion towards all beings.