I often hear comments from yoga teachers in typically western and/ or affluent cultures describing the ways they are requested to teach yoga from their employers. More often than not, if it’s a corporate or gym setting, the request goes something like this:
“Just get in there and give the students a good workout. They won’t be interested in the spiritual OM-ing and fluff.”
And while a significant part of yoga is undoubtedly a good great workout (in more ways than just the physical), this request is quite simply ridiculous.
It is ridiculous in the sense that although there are different aspects to the practice of yoga and that the majority of modern yoga is currently inclined to focus on just one of its 8 limbs, all of the aspects of yoga are inherent in each limb. This totality within the separateness is the very definition of yoga.
Yoga is union.
You want to focus on asana? It is only fully possible through the understanding of breath, of focus, and of the yamas and the niyamas. You prefer to meditate? Prepare your body for the intense workout of sitting for hours on end. Become intimate with the sensations and the senses as they draw inward so much that they narrow into oblivion.
To presume that the spiritual practices of yoga are separate from the body practices of yoga is nothing short of ridiculous.
Spirituality is a meeting place: of minds, souls, ideas, experiences, curiosities… it is a place for the sacred and absurd, the devout and the secular alike.
As a Chinese-Dominican-American raised Catholic in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of New York, who then lived for several years in Europe, and who has continued to embark on various pilgrimages through out Asia, I have had the fortune to visit and sometimes stay in dozens if not hundreds of churches, temples and monasteries from just as many lineages of worship. Each has its own unique story- who built it, how it came to fruition, or who and what is exalted.
But what they all have in common is that they are meeting places. To discover, uncover, recover… truth.
And in my experience, there is nothing more truthful than the body. We don’t need to speak a certain language or even go anywhere to understand it. We simply need to pause. Listen. Feel. Taste. See. Smell. All of it. As one. Union.
To read the full article please download our Asana Journal App or purchase Issue 164 August 2016.