“Yoga is a sophisticated system that extends far beyond doing yoga postures; it is literally a way of living. “
– Deborah Adele
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yug” which translates as “to yoke or unite”. In the traditional sense, the union that yoga refers to is between our own individual consciousness and the divine consciousness. In other words, our perception of reality which is undoubtedly tinted by our own lens and experiences with a sense of truth and universal connection.
Body, Mind & Spirit
Yoga provides me a feeling of equilibrium and balance through the UNION of my body, mind and spirit. While practicing yoga, I have a deeper connection with and recognition of my own beautiful and intricate body; my mind is more still and free of worldly clutter; and I feel more spiritually connected to a divine force more powerful than myself, a force that with the rest of creation I am a part of.
In Yoga, the postures are a starting point- something tangible our body can identify with. Our poses are not as automatic as walking so we must pay attention. When we start tuning in we learn things about ourselves and we might even find awe in the complexity and magnificent ways our bodies work. Bringing focus to the physical body helps us shift our focus from the world’s outside and constant distractions to that of our own inner workings.
As the poses become more automatic and welcoming for us, we can spend more concentrated time on our breathing. When we recognize our breath as our life force, the sacredness of our existence is magnified. Our breath helps us peel back the layers of superficiality that often manifest as tension. The breath connects us to the present moment which is all we ever have.
Even still over time as our practice deepens, we realize the body and breath as transportation units, yet far from the destination themselves. In addition to the physical components of our Yoga practice, we embrace Yoga as a mindset and an expression of spirituality. We come to our mats time and time again where the poses and our breath lead us on an ongoing journey, a journey that bring us closer to home. Home being a place where our mind, body and spirit unite, we feel whole and realize we already have everything we need.
Yoga Off the Mat
Yoga can leave us with these “coming home” or “mind/body/spirit connection” moments, but I do believe the mat is just a place that trains us to recognize them. The wonderful news of it all is that our yoga and the bliss it often leads us to is not confined to our mats. We should ask ourselves, “How do I feel at the end of my yoga practice?” Then, “Can I access this feeling elsewhere in my life?” These bliss moments are available to us all the time. The more we practice finding them, the more we can access them.
Off the Mat Moments
Off the mat moments happen when I am fully present and when I let go of my tight grasp of how I think things should be. Embracing awareness and releasing attachment makes space for the majesty of a moment. When I honor the temple of my body and quiet the chaos of the world, the Spirit manifests. Through unity among the aspects of my being, bliss happens.
Running does not come easily to me and my body; however, my mind and my spirit often crave the feeling of freedom and space it provides. I love how going breathless reminds me of what a blessing it is just to be able to breathe, how getting uncomfortable reminds me of the luxury of comfort and how the suffering of the start ultimately leads me to the euphoria of the end.
Likewise, when I’m crafting, painting or using my brain creatively, I feel more joyously alive. Some use the saying, “I lose myself in (an activity one really enjoys)”. Perhaps it’s true that these are the moments we find ourselves. Maybe these are the moments where we are more intimately alive because we’ve tuned in to something that brings us contentment, something that provides connection.
Recognizing the magnificence of nature are easily found bliss bound moments. Every summer as I ponder of one of God’s most beautiful and powerful creations, the ocean, I am transformed to another realm of being and reminded how my problems are as small as the specks of sand at the foot of God’s enormous handiwork. The sand beneath my toes is far more comfortable than any manufactured mat, the breeze more comforting than studio walls and the sun more powerfully warm than the heat my own muscles could ever produce.
Off the mat moments may come during times as meaningful as spending time with family and friends or as menial as driving to work. The common theme is awareness, releasing attachment and appreciating what is. The physical practice of yoga encourages being aware, letting go of stress and honoring the present moment. Although my warrior poses make me happy, it’s my yoga off the mat that makes my life worth living.
I’d love to hear about some of your “off the mat moments”. Here’s to honoring life each day at a time, every breath at a time!
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