Lately, and increasingly, there’s a lotta talk going on about what is and isn’t yoga. In our struggle to find a finite definition, we’ve begun to dissect and compare different brands of yoga. And if that isn’t enough mental chatter, we’ve added the merit and discredit of yoga fashion to the equation – for example, does my tush look sexier in Lululemon pants?!
Having spent the past year engaged in daily asana self-practice due to the absence of yoga studios in the Central African Republic, I’ve witnessed myself and my practice plummet from strength to weakness and evolve from weakness to strength.
In fact, up until quite recently – I’m talkin’ like 72 hours ago – I was beginning to worry that I may be losing my zest for yoga. I make no apologies – I am a budding yogini who is attached and committed to daily practice. As my practice began to wane, I was forced to inquire deep within, what’s going on here?
On a physical plane, I was/am recovering from post-surgical procedure depression. Yet, I continued to approach the mat as though nothing had changed; ignoring my very own natural healing cycles.
Next, like many of us today, in addition to being consumed by Occupy Wall Street, there is another movement that is taking place for me. I term it, Occupy Self.
In Occupy Self, rather than shun my responsibility towards self, this inner journey is jarring me to wake up and examine how I have co-created my own existence, and be accountable for it. As this clarity emerges, I find myself on along a path that no one else can travel, understand and validate but me. Not to be mistaken as a self-indulgent trip, Occupy Self is about discovering and re-claiming my sense of purpose. Only then can I truly be of service to self and others. Self-ignorance is humanity’s biggest downfall.
For most of Yoga Month, frankly, there was a certain level of resentment I wallowed in when getting onto the mat. My weakened, disempowered inner voice kept whining, ‘I’m tired of practicing alone,’ clearly a snippet of a much larger conversation. Still, I rolled out the mat. Some days, after three Sun Salutations, I’d step off [the mat] and go do something else, simply because I couldn’t do yoga. Other times, I would roll out the mat and just sit and look at it. And of course, there were those times when I did manage to complete my practice, at the end always feeling much better than at the outset.
This morning, while engaged in a particularly cathartic practice, it occurred to me that whatever we deem yoga to be, one unquestionable element about yoga is that yoga is about relationship – with self, with others and especially with our mats. As yoga practitioners, our mat is like an empty canvas is to an artist, paper and pen to a writer. It is where we express and release our innermost sacred selves. Anything less than this goes by another term that falls outside the realms of yoga.
The moment that we begin to engage our mind and intellect into a debate about yoga it is worthy to take note that our egos are quite likely in full effect – the ego is the slave of the mind.
Our yoga will always reflect back to us the lessons that we need to learn and understand at that particular time. For example, on those days when I decided to go do something else besides practice, yoga was teaching me that its essence is about be-ing, not do-ing.
In those moments following surgery where I was determined to get on the mat, the yoga that my heart, body and soul actually needed was for me to just sit still. Whenever I couldn’t physically put myself on the mat and just sat there observing it, my yoga was to be and do just that – witness. And on days like today where I had my yoga groove goin’ on, through breath and movement I accepted the divine invitation to let go and let it flow.
As I concluded my practice this morning, my inner guide whispered lovingly, “let the yoga find you wherever you may be.”
Om Namah Sivaya!
And so it is.
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