What’s in a name? Vinyasa, anusara, javamukti, ashtanga, yin, iyengar, bikram, power, blah, blah, blah…

shiva

There are too many types of yoga with all of them offering some secret ingredient to transformation, divine grace, or spiritual maturity. Surprise! there is no secret to yoga. Yoga means union and when done with others it becomes a communion–the recognition of commonality in experience and each other. All styles of yoga are spiritual marketing. They, consciously or not, appeal to some aspect of spiritual longing in us and some recognition of our conflict with our bodies and our view of our own self. Some offer respite from the fact that we may be lazy, or muscle bound, or hyper flexible, while other styles may actually confront those qualities in us.

So what style is a yogi to choose! That is similar to asking a musician what style of music to play, or asking a scientist what area of science to study. The answer operates at separate levels, one is the ego, the other is yoga. One is the affirmation or denial of our image of self (I’m a classical musician not a rock musician!), the other is the recognition of a communion with each other (I play music). I have never heard someone describe themselves with the exact words that “I am a power yogi”, or “I am a bikram yogi” (or any other version). I’ve only ever heard people say that they are a yogi, or that they practice some form of yoga. We are simply yogis, simply practitioners. Something indivisible in us cannot be forced to be identified with a singular, fleeting quality in our yoga practice, and most of us do this with no conscious effort. Maybe it is just the newness of yoga in the west, but I hope this perspective holds.

Okay, lets get weird then. To do any form of yoga, and in fact the only yoga, is to affirm the ultimate union: om tat sat. Which translates as:  I am that. I am everything. So what happens when we affirm this? What does that look like? What does it feel like? In my experience of slipping into this mode occasionally, I find I spontaneously treat the difficult sensations in my body differently than I normally do–my breath lengthens, my attention allows the sensation to be as it is, and I easily become connected to my breath and body in a way that affirms connection in its basic sense: I am not in isolation. The vehicle to this experience is chitta vritti nirodha, calming and focusing the mind and body. A yoga practice should help train this.

Om tat sat relates to the old Vedantic statement that atman (soul) = Brahman (god). Some yogis a while back recognized that some of the specific physical qualities I mentioned above were in co-experience with the state of connection, communion, and ultimate union. So they trained those qualities of breath, attention, and sensation so that they could help elongate and cultivate those qualities of mind in themselves and ultimately teach it to others. The fact is that you are the sensation in your hamstrings, you are the aversion to the subtle pain, and you are the judgment that eventually comes up from not being more flexible. You are also the release, the communion with another yogi, and all the struggles and happiness of every other person as well.

So my question to you is: How should you treat yourself? If the above is true, that you are all, then all things, sensations, and people deserve your love and attention and you deserve that same love and attention as well.

Perhaps if we did all breathe better, paid attention to tension and weakness in ourselves and others as it truly is, part of ourselves, we would enter into a better communion with each other. It doesn’t really matter what yoga class you do, what matters is that you do it. Stop looking for the right sequence or perfect form of class. Partake! Unroll that damn mat and do some chatturangas

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