This month has been challenging, exciting, intensely emotional, and spiritual all at once. I’ve been dealing with on/off physical injuries, preparing to open my dream yoga studio Smalltown Yoga (which has been so exciting but challenging), snow days and vacation days with two toddlers, and helping to coordinate a beautiful community event, Yoga For Our Lives on March 24th. At times I’ve become so frustrated with dealing with building websites, technology, managing the “how to’s” of opening a business that nobody really prepares you for, well maybe if I had gone to business school, but medical school and my masters in elementary education or my liberal arts education at Williams did not teach me about being an entrepreneur.
Throughout this month, I have once again, whenever faced with challenges and frustrations, relied on yoga as my crutch. For example, although my left hamstring has not been able to move into it’s usual split with ease, or I struggle with some back pain in forward folds, I have learned that yoga is not about perfection. It is about learning about your body, acceptance of limitations, and transforming your practice each day to fit the needs of your mind and body. It took me a while to not want to just force my leg into a split even though I felt discomfort. It took time to learn to back of to transform your yogic self and relate it to the reality; today I’m tighter than yesterday. It took a while to not expect the same every day. After all everyday the self and the reality is transformative and I believe this is what makes yoga spiritual, without having to be religious.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the “true self” and the desired self-transformation is samadhi. Spirituality is not the same as religiosity. A practice such as yoga is spiritual to Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, because it allows for an inner self-transformation and ultimate understanding of the self (on any particular day) and then the transformation of how this new self interacts outwardly towards others and in the existing reality in addition with how the self learns to accept, nourish, and listen to the changed self.
The article that I have attached illuminates the very true and dangerous fact that “mass media are the purveyors of information – print, radio, television, and now on-line computer services. Mass media consists mostly of disembodied images, voices, texts, and data. Meaning is endangered.” Without communication being contact from human to human, but being filtered and skewed through mass media to the consumer, we are in danger of not actually interacting with the true reality, but merely a false reality built on the media that each person is biased towards. The consequences of this filtering and altering of information results in individuals second guessing, “what is true?” “Who do I believe; or is their no meaning in any of this?” This filtration challenges our meaning of the reality that is filtered through mass media and thus challenges our sense of self.
In my view, Yoga (meaning union), is a practice where individually or in a group setting, people practice going back to the basics. Although a mat is helpful, yoga can be done anywhere: the sand on a beach, a grassy meadow, in the snow, in water, or just on hard floor. The very first limb of yoga “yama” In the Sutras is said to enjoin “nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and nongreed, which are not limited by class, place, time, or circumstance.” (2.30-31). A daily yoga practice is brings individuals the “back to basics” grounding and spiritual activity of being in the present uninterrupted moment, of concentration and attentiveness to one’s breathing and movement grounded on a mat (or other floor). It is a spiritual practice in that it is a part of the day set aside to just listen and flow with your body; learning bodily awareness and thoughts that pop into the mind during yoga practice are a means of getting to know the true self unaltered by media or other distractions.
Van Ness’s article, Yoga as Spiritual but not Religious: A Pragmatic Perspective, ends with the following paragraph:
“Rather, yoga, like other spiritual practices, has the potential to subvert and redirect the materialistic values of contemporary consumerism toward an understanding of self and society that elevates personal and social equanimity over competition and dominance. By doing so it attains a deeply spiritual goal even when it occurs outside the purview of an historical religion.”
On March 24th and days, weeks, months, and years following, we are challenged with maintaining connection with the first limb of yoga preaching non-violence, non-stealing, and truth. Yoga for Our Lives brings together a very real community to practice in a renovated mill together for a cause to fund, be pro-active, and provide awareness to ways to stop a society that has increasingly turned to violence, mass media filtration, and interference between human to human contact, disrupting everything that we as human moral beings believe in.
My blog was inspired by Van Ness's article; Yoga as Spiritual but not Religious: A Pragmatic Perspective
Van Ness, P. (1999). YOGA AS SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS: A PRAGMATIC PERSPECTIVE. American Journal of Theology & Philosophy, 20(1), 15-30. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27944075