Disclaimer - I’m writing this quickly. I’m not editing it. I’m not a writer by any means. Just hoping to be able to help some people in some way.
Hey! Noah here! I, like I'd imagine many of you, got involved with the yoga practice strictly for the physical benefits. I wasn't looking for relaxation, I wasn't trying to fix an injury, I wasn't looking for enlightenment, I wasn't trying to calm the mind or anything like that. I literally only went to a yoga class because my wife, Cilla, is a teacher (biased opinion - a great teacher, hehe) and asked me to go to class pretty much daily until I finally went on the promise that it would be a good work out. I enjoyed the first class and continued to attend classes. We practiced at a very physical, asana based, studio. It was great. I worked it into my already jammed up schedule as another workout and continued with all “normal” daily activities. These daily activities ranged from work, eating whatever food was closest (healthy most of the time), drinking, and pretty much most stuff that makes us “happy”.
Being that Cilla was permitted to have me practice during all the classes she taught, I was able to practice 4 times a week at the studio. This led to my practicing at home daily as well. Basically, a lot of practice. One day during savasana (final pose where you just lie there -corpse pose) after a thorough body scan, something flickered to me. Not sure what. It did make me start researching yoga. Up until that point, I had only looked at it as a physical activity. Upon searching Audible (unsolicited plug, audio books are great and I encourage listening to as much as you can), I ordered Light on Life by BKS Iyengar and The Lost Teachings of Yoga by Georg Feuerstein. These books opened up a ton of doors to the yoga practice behind the asana and the intention. I started to see that yoga was more than just a physical practice but also a lifestyle and way of living. This way of living had me more tolerant, kinder, and overall, a better person but I still was unknowingly lacking something…
Being that I was still very much into the physical practice, I was attracted to a handstand workshop by a teacher I had seen on youtube that was happening within a few hours of me. I’m always up for a nice drive (time for audible listening, hehe) so I hit the road. I’m generally late to things so I walked into the class a few minutes late. The place was packed. Two guys in front of me made space for me upon seeing me looking around aimlessly. Sweet. So, I rolled out my mat and sat down ready for some handstands. Well, the teacher then informed everyone that we’d be chanting to start class… Great… I thought I was in the wrong place and was tempted to leave. But I stuck it out and the chant struck a place in my heart that I didn’t quite was possible. I had no idea that hearing and participating in this call and response form of chanting with my now teacher, Raghunath, would open my heart in the way that it did. The class following the chant was invigorating, filled with handstands, tough asana and ended with another much louder group chant at the end. I ended up kind of following Raghunath around the New England area and Wanderlust Festival like a stray puppy looking for food. That food being more of the spiritual teachings and Kirtan (call and response chanting) that he incorporated into all of his classes and workshops. There were always Bhagavad Gita references, yoga philosophy applicable to daily life, and lots of “I’m not the body, I’m not the mind, I’m something divine”. This is what I was missing. This led to my wife and I going to India and taking his Bhakti Cultural Immersion Yoga Teacher Training to feed our now spiritually hungry minds.
It seems that a lot of yoga in the west has worked spirituality out of it. Yoga is often looked at as “to yolk”. This has an open translation here and looks to often be associated with mind and body. What if one looked at it as yoking the spirit with G-d or one’s higher power? Upon listening to many of these books referred to, you’ll hear this reference made. Even the last of the niyamas, Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender to G-d, is often left out or interpreted in some other “make this comfortable” for people way. I guess I’m just saying that we all have our reasons for why we do this. It very much starts with some form of physical need for a lot of us. Maybe we want to heal an injury. Maybe we want to get a workout in. Maybe it’s self care, building confidence or getting over trauma. There are lots of reasons but as I’ve learned, the yoga practice was designed to connect us with G-d. In this connecting with G-d, you’ll work on seeing the divinity in all living beings and the planet itself. The yoga practice is also a great way to prepare oneself for the transitions in life. These transitions may range from job changes, school graduations, job firings/promotions, birthdays, accidents and even death. How we handle these inevitable transitions/ups and downs in life can very well determine the quality of life that we live. Embracing the bad along with the good. The yoga has very much taught me to do all of this.
It seems we live in a day and age where society isn’t as enthusiastic about religion or spirituality in general. I get it. I wasn’t very interested in Hebrew School growing up. It didn’t really resonate with me. Maybe it was just my being young. Maybe not. Now with the spirituality that has been cultivated through my teachers and the yoga practice, I can appreciate all religions and forms of spirituality. I work hard to see the good in people even when it seems like a test or bad joke. I guess this is now the reason why I practice yoga. As a yoga teacher, I’ve been told that one of the most important and hardest jobs is to remind everyone that they are spirit souls. If you made it to the end here, I’ll tell you now just that - You are a spirit soul. Be kind to one another. Do your best to see the love and divinity in every being. Take care of yourself and those that you can. Do something positive with the limited amount of control we have with our own lives. Comments appreciated. I’d love to hear your thoughts too!