With the commercialization of yoga in the Western world over the past two decades, it can be easy for newer practitioners to automatically associate yoga with studios, clothing, and fancy apparel.
Each of these elements serves a purpose in the yoga community, and have certainly helped bring this practice to a larger audience. However, they can also mask the true purpose of why we all step on our mats.
True, yoga is a workout, but it’s so much more than that. It not only strengthens our muscles, but it strengthens our minds; it strengthens our spirits. As we seek harmony between breath and movement, we’re finding ways to connect with our surroundings.
This connection is a key component of the practice of yoga.
As sentient beings, we’re connected to all of nature. We flow back and forth among the same waves of existence. That’s why it’s so essential that—as influential as studios, clothing and apparel are to the modern yogi—we return our yoga practice to its origin: to nature. That doesn’t mean foregoing all the amenities we have today. But every now and then, we need only to look outside to remind us how to ground our practice into nature and connect with the world we all call home.
1. Step outside of the yoga studio.
Without yoga studios countless people would be unable to pursue their practice, or might have never been introduced to yoga at all. Studios, and their dedicated teachers, serve a true and important purpose in the practice of yoga. They help to nurture community, not just poses.
However, the earliest yoga practitioners didn’t need studios to practice. They took to nature. They sat on the ground or rocks, they practiced at home, in a field…wherever the moment moved them. What better way to connect with nature than to practice within its very embrace? Imagine being able to integrate the cool breeze, the blades of grass, and the drifting of clouds, into your practice. When we step outside of the studio, we can find balance and unity without the confines of four walls.
2. Simplify your clothing choices for a month.
Love or hate Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg’s take on clothing can serve the yogi community well. He’s been quoted as saying he wears a similar style shirt every day because he wants to clear his life from needless decision-making. That way, he has more time to focus on how best to serve his community.
Imagine if we all decided to wear the same yoga outfit every time we stepped on the mat, even if for just one month? There’d be no decision making. No wondering which combination works best. Our minds could focus, rather, on how best to serve our surroundings and ourselves.
3. We don’t always need a mat.
These days it seems like yoga mats are the equivalent of a ball and glove to a baseball player. But here’s the difference: baseball players need a ball and glove to play. We don’t need a yoga mat to practice.
In a yoga studio, mats help soften our foundation. But is that added support needed, for example, if you take your practice to the beach? Not necessarily. Many yogis form a kinship with their mats. While that’s a beautiful concept in some ways, in other ways it’s just another form of attachment.
Consider going without your yoga mat at least once per week, to remind yourself that your practice reaches beyond the limitations of a piece of fabric.
How else can we return our practice to its natural origins?
What other ways can the modern-day yogi return his or her practice back to nature? What have you found most helpful on your journey to connecting with the world around you?
Author: RC Victorino
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Matthew Ragan/Flickr