The Heart of (my) Yoga
I have been practicing yoga since the year my Dad moved to King Street Nursing Home, located fifteen minutes from my neighborhood. Back then, in 2005, I began practicing yoga as a way to manage my spirit and cope with the sometimes overwhelming sadness I felt about and for my Dad.
Somewhere along the way, my yoga practice became grace on two feet. I practiced yoga because it made me feel balletic, because my posture made me feel graceful, because my muscles felt stretched and massaged. I was internalizing the asanas and thriving from the reinvigorated strength and flow of my body.
And then, at a moment that is imperceptible, my yoga practice was spiritual. Oh, not all the time, but with certain teachers and certain classes, in certain moments, I was in the church of the inner-smiling/moving/chanting/being. As T.K.V. Desikachar explains, “there are many definitions of yoga…These definitions of yoga have one thing in common: the idea that something changes.” [p. 79]
It was the chanting that spoke to my spirit, and it was my teacher Deb who taught me these chants. Loka Samasta Sukino Bevantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free. Ohm namo bhagavatay ~ Vasue dayvaiya. To see the light of God within everyone and everything. I do not believe in a God, but I do believe in the good within everyone and everything.
Desikachar goes on to say that “Each of our actions shows its effects either immediately or after a period of time. Every action has a consequence.” [p. 82] When my mind needs calming or when my body needs energizing or my spirit needs nurturing, my yoga practice quenches that need. And sometimes, I have no noticeable need other than to simply be in class for my practice. My personal practice is my practice at The Yoga Sanctuary, where I have been taking classes since that day back in March 2005.
Desikachar spends Part II of his book sharing his understanding of yoga. He is explaining what I see as yoga’s philosophic approach to a way of striving to live. Ellen, one of my teachers, often plans her classes around yogic principles, and from her I learned of the yoga sutras, which she likens to ”the 10 Commandments of Yoga”. Here, too, I have found enjoyment in the chanting: ya-ma ni-ya-ma as-a-na pran-a-ya-ma prat-ya-har-a d-har-na dh-ya-na sa-mad-ha-ya-ha aush-tau an-gan-i. Desikachar informs us that “The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is called yama…, and how we relate to ourselves inwardly is called niyama.”
I do not consciously consider the yamas and niyamas in my daily life, but am certain that bits and pieces find their way into my daily living. How can they not, for the yamas relate to social and personal behaviors for peaceful living. Most of the niyamas, however, are a bit further removed for me. While I came to yoga for self-healing, and have certainly seen self-development, I rarely pause to ponder the principles of purity, discipline, or surrender to a higher power.
Undeniably, what gives me the greatest simple pleasure is moving through asana practice where my mind is focused on my breathing and I have, as my teachers say, Nowhere to go and nothing to do but be here now.
(written June 15, 2013)