“Yoga: Yoking, uniting, joining, contacting, union, association, connection, deep meditation, concentration, contemplation on supreme union of body, mind and soul, union with God.”
From Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar
When one speaks of yoga, what usually comes to mind? A room filled with women, partially dressed, contorting their bodies into different positions all the while looking flawless and maintaining that ‘it’s all good Om attitude’. Is that not how the media and the general pop culture chooses to depict this practice? That scenario may be the case in some studios, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I would venture to say the majority of studios and the majority of people who practice yoga don’t fit into that cookie cutter image of “yoga”. The majority of people who I have experienced practicing yoga are real people, with real stories, real challenges, who aren’t flawless. Like every other human being most yogis come with rough edges needing to be smoothed out. Just because one practices yoga or even instructs yoga, doesn’t mean they have it all figured out and that the work is complete. Everyone is on a journey doing the best they can with what they have and some choose to practice yoga to assist in that process. That doesn’t make one better than one who doesn’t practice yoga or even better than one who hasn’t practiced yoga for as long as someone else or in the same tradition or in the same manner as someone else.
This practice, which we deem to be called Yoga isn’t a one size fits all. Everyone comes to the practice for differing reasons and with differing needs to be addressed. We are all different, but the same in the vein we all practice yoga. Key word: PRACTICE. Some days we get it and some days we need improvement, but we continue onward and hopefully upward. Whether we fit the “image” of yoga or even the image of whatever “should” we place on ourselves or society places on us, there is always a home in yoga. Yoga is that place of connection, uniting, and contacting amongst the many variations of the definition. The first connection to be with oneself, than hopefully with others in a positive way.
In a world where we are continually judged, compared to, not good enough, forced to be different than we truly are, can we find a refuge in the practice of yoga? In the practice of accepting where we are, honoring that and challenging ourselves to improve, can we find that solace? Can we find that comfort knowing that by going to a studio (hopefully IYCD) we can connect to other individuals making the same effort in their journey wherever they are on their path?
But in reality does that happen? Even within the yoga world at times there seems to be this disconnect, this unfriendliness this I’m better than you attitude. Why is that? Shouldn’t the practice of yoga help the transformation on all levels, not just the physical body? When it all comes down, Yogis are people too. As we reflect on the reasons we personally step to the mat, may we reminded that this sacred practice is meant to transform all parts of us: body, mind and spirit. As we face challenges in the outside world and sometimes even in the yoga world let us continue to embody and strive to aim for the higher goals of yoga. On our way down to touch our toes let us humble our minds to our hearts remembering we are all unique and we are all drawn to the practice to better ourselves in what ever way that presents. As we balance on our heads let us find balance in the way we perceive ourselves and the way we perceive and treat others. As Mr. Iyengar says in light on Life, “A Spiritual man with his knowledge and wisdom perceives the differences of age and intelligence between himself and others, but he never loses sight of the fact that the inner being is identical. Even though the man possesses an inner knowledge of such depth and subtlety that he visibly lives in a state of exalted wisdom, he also visibly lives with his feet planted firmly on the ground. He is practical and deals with people and their problems as and where they are.”
So whatever the reason we step to the mat let us set the intention to represent the true aspect of yoga: Yoking, uniting, joining, contacting, union, association, connection, deep meditation, concentration, contemplation on supreme union of body, mind and soul, union with God. Let us be true to ourselves in whatever way we present so that we may accept and have compassion for others in whatever way they present, whether in the yoga world or else where. May this practice of Yoga shape us in a manner to be flexible in our bodies, as well as in our mind and emotions so we may unite the many aspects of our own inner being to be more united with the many aspects of others.