Yoga and the Principle of Uncertainty

By Annie Moyer

The yoga studio is not exactly a science lab, but it reflects some basic dynamics that science has attempted to explain for the last century. One example is Werner Heisenberg’s legacy in the field of physics, the Principle of Uncertainty, which states that one can only calculate the probability of a particle’s appearance in a certain time and place – never the exact placement of the particle because its existence is constantly changing. Electrons are only measurable when they are interacting with something else, he discovered. When they leap from the orbit of one atom to another (the famous “quantum leap”), they define their existence in that brief moment in time, and then they continuously re-define themselves with every spin around the atomic universe. For us non-science-y folk, this simply means that the existence of matter, including people, is solely defined by its relationship to the existence of other matter (including humans, animals, and other living things). 

I am only a mother relative to my daughters. I become a sister when among my brothers and a daughter when speaking of my parents. I put on my teacher’s “hat” when yoga class begins. I wear my student “hat” when we host our visiting yoga masters. My sweet and recently passed dog Daisy understood me in other terms entirely – provider of chewy food, a warm lap and long walks around the neighborhood. To Daisy, our backyard was a racetrack, a squirrel-hunting ground and what we humans would call a bathroom. 

This changing nature of reality is something the original yogis intuited a couple thousand years ago. The understanding was so profound that they traced all causes of suffering back to what they termed avidya – literally, “without seeing”; figuratively, a lack of wisdom about the truth of impermanence. We never take the same breath twice, we never see two identical sunsets and we never do the same downward-facing dog, no matter how many ventures onto the mat. We are continuously being formed and re-formed at a cellular level, as is every speck and collection of matter in our universe.

In his recent New York Times bestseller Seven Brief Lessons From Physics, author and physicist Carlo Rovelli says that reality is only relational. Let us treasure the relationships and the interactions we have, when we have them, and let us breathe deeply and respond wisely as we witness them changing. Sun & Moon Yoga Studio exists as such because people gather here to strengthen their mind-body unity across diverse, beautiful and certainly uncertain moments. Every day, we are grateful that this continues to be our shared reality.