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Yoga is My Soulmate

Yoga is art. Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is a practice where I meet myself with completely new eyes every day. Yoga is how I understand myself, and it is also how I let go of all attempts to understand anything. Yoga is all of these things, and it is none of these things. Like the Tao, the Yoga that can be named is no longer Yoga. [1] The intricacy and subtleties of Yoga are such that as soon as a definition is attempted, it has morphed into something else entirely. Living and breathing within Yoga is the paradox of all creation: It seems to be a system of body movements. It seems to be a system to reach higher states of consciousness. It seems to be a science with trackable, measurable results. It seems to be an exercise in chaos. Again I say, Yoga is all of these things, and it is none of these things.

Whether or not Yoga can be defined by all of those words, Yoga is definitely the thing I hold most sacred. It has been the closest companion of my soul and my most personal temple for the last 18 years. I have been so fortunate to walk a path that is graced with these ancient, timeless teachings. Yoga entered my life at the age of 16, when I was introduced to Iyengar Yoga because my parents were both suffering from slipped spinal discs, and their progressive healthcare practitioners suggested they try to heal the imbalance with a consistent, informed, and cautious Yoga practice.

The method of Yoga prescribed was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. He received the teachings of Hatha Yoga from his Guru (for whom he is named) Sri T. Krishnamacharya.[2] As he progressed as a teacher, he found that Westernized culture created a population who could not directly experience the Āsana (posture) – at least not at first. Most new students needed the full combination of

  • the support of props
  • a deeper understanding of the alignment of their bodies
  • the guidance and space to remember the connection of their body, mind and soul

Mr. Iyengar also found that many people in treatment with Western medicine for ailments and accidents were given dire prognoses, such as, a full lifetime restricted to a wheelchair, dependence on pharmaceuticals, or eventual full loss of hearing. [3] In these short examples, I'm referring to three real people who now enjoy a greater quality of life thanks to Yoga. Silva Mehta, co-author of Yoga the Iyengar Way, sustained a crush fracture of the spine at the age of 25. She developed osteoarthritis by age 30 and was told she would be in a wheelchair by age 50. Thanks to regular Yoga practice, the pain is lifted, and a wheelchair is no longer in her future. In the book, The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, he tells of a young woman who was gradually losing her hearing. Instead of succumbing to this degeneration in her physical body, she practiced Yoga daily with Mr. Iyengar. Every day as she was in the headstand posture, he would delicately and precisely insert his finger in her ear. By this method, her hearing loss was reversed. Mr. Iyengar’s own daughter, Geeta suffered many illnesses as a child, which led to nephritis (acute inflammation of the kidneys) by the age of 10. She escaped a life of heavy medications and most likely a shortened life because she chose Yoga. [4] He knew that a dedicated Yoga practice could heal, reverse and eliminate his daughter's condition, allowing for a vibrant, healthy, medication-free life.

So, there I was, 16-years-old in La Crosse, Wisconsin meeting Yoga for the first time with my parents. I was immediately in love. I was in awe of the instructors’ ability to speak poetry that also informed me of where my body was and how it needed to move in order to bring me into the full benefit of the Āsana. I was enamored with the fact that every posture was meant to be a meditation. Even at the beginning stages when my body was learning strength and flexibility within alignment, and the postures were difficult, I felt the majestic focus of relinquishing the control of my brain to my body.

At that time, my metabolism was so high that I had to eat constantly and couldn’t participate in very active sports because my weight would drop drastically. In Yoga I found an activity that intrinsically balanced my endocrine system and allowed me to keep my body mass!  I understand that Western culture idolizes a thin physique, but an overly high metabolism is a struggle just as an overly low metabolism is a hardship. Let me be very clear: a metabolism that is out of balance in either end of the spectrum is not desirable. Luckily, both are manageable and even curable through the gift of Yoga.

Although I was very passionate about Yoga right away, there were times when I felt tired or bored, or didn’t feel like practicing. I definitely felt the slightly ostracizing strange-ness of a teenager loving spiritual Yogic practice in this modernized world. Now, in my 30’s I still experience these moments and days, though with much less attachment and with infinitely multiplying gratitude. The depth of understanding that daily Yoga practice delivers transcends description.

This practice also opened my appetite for exploring many meditation techniques. It guided me to invaluable literature on Yogic philosophy, nudged me toward a fulfilling career as a Licensed Massage Therapist, and it introduced me to the incredible grace of Kundalini and Naam Yoga. It was through the Kundalini Yoga practice of Aquarian Sadhana that I healed a repressed love of singing. Thanks to this practice, I can now sing in public, and I am even working on my first mantra music album!

From my perspective and experience – having lived the practice of Yoga, and having witnessed other practitioners enter a Yoga practice – there are certain things that dedication to yoga can bring to life:

  • Bodily strength, flexibility and stamina
  • Mental strength, flexibility and stamina
  • Expanded Mind-Body connection
  • Expanded conscious awareness of the true nature of reality
  • Healing of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual traumas
  • Contentment and joy
  • Compassion and gratitude
  • Greater trust of self and intuition
  • A strong sense of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual balance

Are these things listed above guaranteed to you if you practice regularly? No. But they are so very likely to enter your life, especially if you desire them and you work every day to allow Yoga to create this space in your life.

The gift of yoga is subtle, nearly imperceptible at times. It can also be adamant and uncompromising, but with the greatest love imaginable, much like the greatest power in the cosmos: Peace. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing conquers peace because in true peace there is no conflict, no hierarchy, no ego, no struggle for power. There is only peace, and true peace is ultimately what yoga teaches.

 

NOTES:

  1. This is a reference to a famous line in a famous literary work, the Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, "The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao, the name that can be named is not the eternal name. . ."
  2. B.K.S. Iyengar’s full name is Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar and this information was procured from the site: http://bksiyengar.com/modules/Guruji/guru.htm
  3. These examples are taken from the books: The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga the Iyengar Way by Silva, Mehra & Shyam Mehta, and Yoga: A gem for women by Geeta S. Iyengar
  4. Source: Yoga: A gem for women by Geeta S. Iyengar