Whether or not you intend it to be one, yoga is a spiritual practice. It was created to help people like you and me connect with a power greater than themselves in their daily lives. This power goes by many names – “God,” “The Universe,” “Spirit,” “The Divine” – and yoga is very yogic in not limiting this practice to one religion or faith system. Rather yoga is offered as a tool that works within any faith or without a faith at all.
How does it do this? Well, first, a yoga practice is not designed to get you into heaven after you die. It’s meant to improve your experience of your miraculous life – the greatest, most wonderful gift you will ever receive. Yoga centers your spirituality right here and right now. As it does so, it changes everything about the way you are living your life.
Yoga always starts with the basics. It starts with the most accessible part of your life – your body.
- Yoga teaches us to get up and move. Every day.
- Yoga teaches us that doing something is always better than doing nothing.
- Yoga teaches us to value our bodies for what they can do rather than for what they look like. And we begin to see beneath the surface of things.
- Yoga teaches us to do hard things that we never thought we could do. And our small notions of our own possibilities explode.
Yoga doesn’t stick with the body for long. Even if you swear you only get on your mat because it’s a good workout. (I love this about yoga.)
- Yoga, it turns out, is not just teaching us to get up and move every day. It’s teaching us to get up and get out there – to see someone, join something, be part of the world. Every single day.
- When yoga teaches us that doing something is always better than doing nothing, it is not limiting this instruction to stretching your body. See someone hurting? See some trash on the ground? See a lost dog? Doing something is better than doing nothing. Even something small.
- Because hard things no longer scare us (after all, we’ve done tons of hard things on our yoga mats and are still alive and well), yoga teaches us to meet all kinds of challenges as opportunities. This makes us pretty unstoppable forces in the world.
- This new mind set changes our reactions to life’s hard stuff. Where once we may have whined, now we feel gratitude. And, by transforming us into grateful people, yoga infuses our life with meaning.
With enough practice the things we are learning on our mats begin to expand beyond ourselves.
- Yoga teaches us to take care of ourselves and, before we know it, we find ourselves taking better care of others.
- Yoga teaches us to respect ourselves and, before we know it, we find ourselves treating others with that same respect.
- Yoga teaches us to find the good and valuable in ourselves, and, because we know we’re only one of billions of people, we trust that same goodness and value is within everyone else. So we look for it. We look hard.
- And we find it. We find good everywhere we look – even when we least expect it.
We practice and we practice (on and off the mat) and we begin to trust some seriously life altering ideas.
- Life is good (even the bad parts) and is not to squandered. In fact, every moment has a gift we can squeeze out of it if we’re paying attention and participating.
- This world is beautiful and good and needs our care as much as our wonderful bodies need our care.
- People are fundamentally good. Even when they’re not acting like it. And they need our care too.
- When people are not acting like they are good, we need to look beneath the surface and find a way to connect, a way to understand, a way to see their value and goodness. Sometimes it is exactly this – someone seeing their value and goodness – that they need to begin to heal from the hurt, fear or self-loathing that is causing them to act poorly.
Living like this gives us glimpse after glimpse of heaven here and now – connection, engagement, participation, gratitude, wonder. Living your yoga is a prayer without end.
Namaste. (Or, the good and valuable in me recognizes and bows to the same in each of you.)