Hi all! I’m a Christian! Stick with me here…
I’m a follower of Christ, in that, I’m an absolute hot mess and God in his unexplainable grace decided to love me anyway. He’s thinks I’m beautiful. It’s crazy.
But speaking of hot mess, one of the things that keeps me sane and balanced and giggly in this world is yoga. It has become one of my most favorite, practical coping tools. Trust me, with a crazy brain like this, I have a lot to cope with ;) Side note: don’t we all? Just sayin’.
Oh and trees. Trees keep me sane too. And my smelly dog. And my husband. Anyway!
As I was going through my teacher training I got to learn about the rich history of yoga. It is rich, it is full, it has been around for centuries. The way yoga was practiced hundreds, even 50 years ago in India is very different than how we practice it here in the United States.
In the traditional practice, Astanga Yoga, there are eight “limbs” or phases. Some limbs have to do with how we interact with the world around us and discuss doing so with patience, truthfulness and integrity. There are also sections devoted to self-care, cleanliness, pranayama (the breath) and so on. I was very intrigued to find out that Asana, or posture (the actual poses), is only ONE limb of yoga. This, as you can tell via Facebook, Instagram and Lululemon, is the limb that we focus on here in the West.
The thing is, if you walk into a yoga studio these days, you don’t really know what you’re going to get. Why is that? You might get super loud, rocking music pumpin’, one pose thrown at you after another, and the next thing you know, your mat is covered in sweat.
Or, you might walk into an incense filled room, sitar music sliding in the background, Sanskrit, Sanskrit, “let’s hold this pose and delve into your core wounds” type of experience.
First of all, lemme say I absolutely love and adore both. Truth.
The reason why there are such different expressions of yoga is because it has become just that: an expression.
What brings me to my mat can be extremely different then the person practicing next to me. And that is ok. We will still breathe the same air, flow the same postures, side-by-side, in sync and at the end of class bring our hands to our heart and say together, “Namaste.”
So what does Namaste really mean? If you google it, you’ll find, a “respectful greeting when meeting someone,” or “there is a Divine spark within us and we acknowledge that.” Phew, that’s a mouthful.
But that’s not what I hear in class. This is one of those phrases that you can say people have appropriated. Each yoga teacher has taken the tradition of ending the practice together with Namaste and has made it a form of their own expression. If you go to 10 different classes you will hear 10 different beautiful translations of Namaste. It has become a way to say, “Hey, we have just spent this whole class sweating and breathing together, I didn’t know you an hour before, but I feel like I know you now: Namaste my friend.”
One of the truly profound things about the practice of yoga is that one thing brings me to my mat and something totally different brings the stranger next to me to theirs. Homosexuals, Christians, Atheists, Aggies & Longhorns can all practice in a line. We will never touch or get in each other’s space but throughout the class we are breathing together. Yes, the same smelly air.
At the end of practice we come to seated at the top of our mat, open our eyes and glance, or dare to make eye contact with each other. In this moment we might realize that the practice has moved from an internal one to external, as we take one final breath together. We bring our hands to our heart and we find that even though we had different expressions, for the last hour at least, we were moving together – without judgment, without over thinking it – with joy.
There is a love within me that is shining so bright… I see the same love within you, and it is a beautiful light. Namaste!