Yoga . . .
If this small group of adults with mental illness responded to yoga, how would our cultural mania, depression, paranoia, delusions and violence benefit from a more yogic lifestyle? If yoga makes me feel more loving, generous, humble, grateful; if it balances the central nervous system and quiets the mind, imagine a world that felt more loving, generous, humble, grateful, reverent; imagine balancing the cultural nervous system and quieting the collective anxiety, fear and grief.
The journey begins with each one of us. My yoga practices reflect on and teach me about my daily life, and this pondering mind. When I practice yoga, I am asking myself—where can I surrender more deeply, where do I need more strength, more restfulness? Can I receive openly, can I participate more fully? Am I being aggressive, greedy, sloppy . . . or am I compassionate, accepting, wakeful?
I’ve been in many different kinds of yoga classes—sweating, twisting, breathing, lying over blankets, chanting, etc.—and what I continue to discover is that yoga is about coming home to myself, getting back to balance. Sometimes on the journey home I encounter my ego, my shame or arrogance, my sorrow or joy; and traveling deeper yet, I meet the stillness and spaciousness that has been keeping the light on while I travel through my distractions. I discover that while I may experience all these phenomena—laughter, love, anger, fear—I am not limited to these. My nine year old arises then; “who will I be if there is no Earth, no body, no ego; if I am not this unhappiness or happiness, what am I?” Can I learn to rest in spacious beingness? Can I lay down and look at the sky—and be the sky? As Rumi says “out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.”
I tell myself then, don’t make a move toward or away from this ego, this phenomena—gravitate toward truth and wholeness. Let this craving to be free guide and move me. Let it move me.
It’s been said in yoga that this body is an instrument being played by the wind, the breath, prana (life force). Can I exist as this stillness and movement, as this emerging song, in awe, gratitude, humility and surrender—letting this life unfold in the mystery?
In the practice of asana, of stretching in yoga poses, we seek balance—between strength and softness, between intention and acceptance, between embracing this body/heart/mind as unique and profound, and releasing into a larger sense of belonging in Oneness and Union. When this translates in my life, my mind is neither too strong nor too soft, my heart is balanced between longing and acceptance, and I find I am participating with the universe rather than against it. There is caring for this me, caring for the whole, expanding into wider and wider circles of beingness, yet being connected to a deep sense of inner stability and centeredness.
How might this expansive love and centeredness benefit my life, my community? How can this journey that begins with one, remind us all of the power of Oneness? Aligning with this Oneness is not a loss of self, but rather a release into an unbounded strength, wisdom and love.
Whether we can hold our feet behind our head or not, we can still hold our hearts with mercy and hold onto the truth in our beings to guide us in this unfolding mystery.
May all beings be held with mercy, live their truth, and come home to wisdom and love. Om Sat Nam.
Sarahjoy is an explorer on the path of yoga and other mystical traditions. She is passionate about yoga, community, poetry and the awakening of our collective consciousness. A teacher for several years, she has recently relocated to Portland, Oregon. She can be reached at 503-230-YOGA (230-9642) for class schedules, private yoga lessons or yoga therapy. She is leading a retreat Awakening into the Sacred, at Breitenbush Retreat Center, August 9-13.