Growing in popularity and demand in America, yoga is available more and more to soothe our minds and strengthen our bodies. With gratitude we get the chance to once again harmonize body, breath, and mind (the physical, spiritual, and intellectual).
Yoga is the Sanskrit word that gives us the Latin root "yoke" -- to join together. A great translation is "union." Whether our perspective is practical, scientific, or spiritual, some of the common "unions" we seek are:
- union of body, mind, and spirit
- union of conscious and unconscious mind
- union of the individual and the universal
- union of the terrestrial and the divine (celestial)
- union of our masculine and feminine sides
It does not require a specific level of fitness, strength, or flexibility, yet it provides tools to help balance the demands that we put on body, mind, and spirit.
Personal practice can include a wide variety of styles from Ashtanga (eight-limbs) to Iyengar (modified for safety), Hatha (merging sun and moon) to Anusara (friendly heart centered), Bikram (overheated calesthenics) to Kundalini (energetic opening), each with significant contributions. Each person is so very different -- not only when compared to others but also compared to ourselves from day to day -- that we may benefit from becoming well rounded rather than devoted to a single style.
We may begin with an emphasis on fitness and the physical. But over the years, that is likely to expand as we realize that the practice is more about breathing, arousing energy, and returning the mind to its natural serenity. Not everyone goes deeper, but as one grows in breadth, one tends to go in depth.
As we embrace life, yoga ceases to seem like exercising and starts to be experienced as living for the first time. Preliminary training becomes a daily practice (sadhana). Having cultivated compassion towards ourselves, sharing it with others becomes second nature, and life becomes about enjoying the journey.