How free are you on your mat?
Is yoga freely available in your community?
Do you have an independent, home practice?
How does your yoga practice help you free your body, mind and spirit?
And most importantly how does your yoga practice help create freedom and independence in your community for positive transformation?
I encourage us all to reflect on elements of freedom in your yoga practice today as a part of your Independence Day activities.
Asana. Alignment. Physical yoga
Many of us embark on a yoga path initially for physical reasons.
We want to “get flexible” or improve our balance or tone our muscles.
If you stick to your practice beyond a few sessions, you open yourselves to what the entire practice has to offer, and that’s beyond the physical body. The asanas were meant to help us align and focus internally.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“The practice of asana makes our bodies fit vessels for our spirit” – BKS Iyengar.[/quote]
Physical yoga is not a means to an end. It’s the gateway.
Are you stuck in a physical goal or aspiration on your mat? Is that giving you freedom or holding you back? Can you let that go? What will reveal itself if you can let that go?
When we’ve developed our physical practice to know the poses and the alignment the only place left to go is within. We are ready to observe and confront our minds and discover spirit.
Home practice. Independent practice.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”Do your practice and all is coming.” – Sri Pattabhi Jois[/quote]
No matter the kind of yoga you practice, I truly believe our journeys are meant to take on their own independent flavor and tone.
If your practice is always dependent upon my voice as a teacher is it ever yours? How deep are you connecting with your spirit if you never freely explore your thoughts, biases, patterns and behaviors on your own?
This level of practice is hard and it’s also one that eventually kicks all the birdies out of the nest. How does a yoga studio survive if you’re constantly setting them free? They’ll leave! They’ll never come back! They don’t need me!
If we don’t encourage them to take those steps we’re creating a sangha of dependence.
And if the student doesn’t take steps toward independent practice, he or she will never be free.
Who’s free to share yoga with you?
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“To truly understand what it is to be in the light, you have to also understand what it is to be in the shadow. Because it is one thing to hold the light within myself, but how can I hold the space for another being when they are in their shadow and still love them? And not judge them? I am only going to judge them if I am still judging me.” ― Seane Corn[/quote]
Look around you when you’re in your next yoga class. Who’s next to you? Someone you know and see every time you’re there? Is she a new face? Is he a brown face? Is he a different body type? What’s their gender identification?
Do they have a new yoga mat or the latest in yoga fashion?
Often yoga studios become social gathering places. But social circles tend to flock together, or become exclusive. It’s often not intentional. It starts off organic and then they become a group that has a shared identity that can unfortunately send signals to others that they don’t belong.
We send a message about ourselves through who comes through our doors. Yoga should be freely accessible for everyone to explore and we should want everyone to feel welcome.
What are the barriers we create in our communities to making yoga accessible? What communities do you know of that could benefit from yoga? And how are you extending it to them?
Off the mat. Community freedom
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] “The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” ― T.K.V. Desikachar [/quote]
How many of us have rushed to a yoga class after a stressful day at work? We arrive and slam our mat down still steaming with road rage, out of breath because we didn’t want to be late.
Or, who hasn’t left yoga and headed to an event or shopping and turned down the panhandler or crossed to the other side of the street when a group of teens was coming our way?
We should become yoga mindful in all our action.
Yoga is a practice. And every second of every day affords us an opportunity to live the practice and practice in service. Mindfulness, compassion, breaking down barriers to communication – this is all real-life stuff – not just for yoga class.
Many of our communities are in need. We are fractured, financially strapped and fatigued. That results in short tempers and fuses, neighborhood violence, disregard, disrespect and apathy.
Just as we learn to support each other in partner yoga classes, we must reach out a hand in our communities. If we don’t, it’s like we’re hoarding the light we discover in our practice and don’t want to share. Yoga in action can look like a soup kitchen. Read: “Modern Yoga Will Not Form a Real Culture Until Every Studio Can Double As a Soup Kitchen.”
Yoga in action can be a community garden, an after-school tutoring program, 12-step yoga programs, stream cleanup, adopt-a-highway.
Yoga in action can be a smile and a wave.
It’s free and freeing.
Happy Independence Day.