Yoga of the Spirit vs. Yoga of Religion
Updated: Mar 14, 2018
Do you know what I love about sharing blogs from Essence Health and Research? It's that I can talk about so many different types of topics that I love; everything from research, science, spirituality, nutrition, food, lifestyle, health, and even photography!
Now, it's time to talk about Yoga.
The very practice of yoga allows you to walk into a classroom and walk out with a new change in yourself. As a child, it is natural to say that depending on the age, that child is in a certain area of development and thus has something to learn about how to get along in the world. We understand that children need teachers and guides and mentoring. We would never think that children could just be pushed out there from the womb and told to do it all for themselves, never mind the fact that they just came from inside body, don't know the language, or haven't learned the resources in their world yet. We just know we have to help them find their way, and in the process of helping them find their way, we often learn something about ourselves, and it may even help us find our way better.
As adults, especially in our current culture, you may see different representations of child development in our adult culture. You can see where things don't make sense and where some adults need help of some kind. You can judge that, you can help, or you can do nothing at all. As adults we know more, have more choices, and some of those choices perpetuate the maturity or immaturity of our culture as we see it today. When I walk into a yoga class either as a student or as a teacher, I know there is always potential that I will be changed or that my students will be changed, or that we will change together. You can bring in all of your habits and how you deal with the world, but by the nature of actually practicing yoga, something about you changes for the better, especially if you have a supportive environment and good teachers around you.
What about the question I've posed here though. What about religion? What about spirit? Well, you have to think about the essential ingredients of religion, which often is centered around rules and ritual. Then, the essential ingredients of spirit is a blend of intuition, inner voice/teacher, and God. We know that yoga can be approached from the framework of many religions, since yoga is most closely related to hinduism, buddhism, and even christianity. Some even name their yoga style and conduct their practices of yoga from one of these religious viewpoints. I'm not saying that is wrong, because at the heart of every religion is the spirit. What I am saying is that when I walk into a classroom to teach yoga, I see people, some who are the "cool" ones, some who are the "intense" ones, some who are the "new" ones, some who are the "injured" ones, some who are the "mental" ones, some who are the "forgotten" ones, and some who are the guiders, the teachers, the healers, the conduits, the builders, and the helpers. So if you take religion with you, you want to take the heart of it with you, which is the Spirit.
So how do you teach and reach by the Spirit?
Well, I just want to say first that there hasn't been many times lately in the last year where I haven't been challenged to be a bridge with my students. Sometimes, my students speak broken english, they represent all the colors of the globe, and they haven't lived my life or yours. There is pain in there that no one knows about, and there is something in everyone that we all have in common. I teach small crowds and big crowds, young and old, big and small, I teach all personalities, all genders, all sexual orientations, all colors. Not ever have I walked into a class without just a bit of anxiety or fear that I may not reach them. Yes, that is my essential thought in it all: Will I reach them? What guides me is Spirit, not the top layer of religion. Students can be completely used to the way it's always been, they can be attached to how they want it to be, or they can be looking for a specific competitive challenge. I have been there, I get it.
I used to think if I kept students moving, they would have less time to think about being complex and just be, and lately, especially in the Seattle area, I find that it is increasingly important to slow down, align, experience, feel, and be. If you want that true flow, which is the flow from the Spirit, you need to clean out from the inside. Some days, it's important to slow down and clean out and some times it's important to move and clean out.
Either way, it's important to tune in, and sometimes, religion can be a distraction because it can represent the top layer where the Spirit is the inside layer you need to get to. That's the place you have to go to. Some like to push through and be pushed, because there is that superficial or outside goal, and I've seen some of those same people surprised by a class that takes them there through synergy. In times of division, you want more correct synergy. It'll have more power to lift off the darkness, difficulties, and the walls you may feel in your life. Sometimes the right challenge comes from actually learning more about yourself through the time you spend paying attention than through the time you spend reaching a goal or a tough pose. Get there by paying attention, and you might be surprised what you see and experience.
You see, Yoga of the Spirit is a different kind of yoga.
It's not an elitist yoga or a "better than you" yoga, it's an alignment style of yoga to get you fresh and able. After all, we can have a lot of baggage. When I spend less time worrying about whether my students like me and more about caring about them and their transformation, it reflects a new culture. It's about what we do together, not what I can take credit for. I know I am a conduit, and I honor it. If I didn't have a heart for being in God sense, I couldn't do what I do. This kind of yoga and teaching takes you in, sorts you out, and you come out the other side elevated to a new state of health, not just a new state of enlightenment or having completed a new challenge. It's that sorting that so many of us need to do but so many haven't taken that step yet. We need more people taking this step during these times. Take it from someone who used to be the ultimate stoic as a yoga student, you want to be transformed on your insides, not just your outsides. If you become a better and healthier person on the inside and out because you met my class, I feel like I've done my job.
I was talking with a great lady today after a yoga class I was teaching, and we both agreed. It's not about knocking everyone out to get to the top of the ladder, sometimes it's about helping those on the low rungs of the ladder up so that all of you can reach the top together. Sometimes, I will specifically focus on alignment for the first half of class because I want those who are new or new to me to know how to get to the top right. Then I'll take everyone to the breakthrough together, or they will take me there by pushing me to keep going, telling me they are ready.
If you ever truly want to achieve a powerful collective in the right direction, you have to pay attention to the people you might be leaving behind, and not just the next rung of the ladder in front of you.
It's what Spirit would ask of us to do. Don't get complacent in times when we are the vehicles of the changes in good directions. It's a shedding of an old time, and bridging to a new one. You can either resist or try to understand how you can be a bridge in it. When you are in Spirit, you can read the pain in people's eyes knowing their hidden suffering and the joy when they know that you care. You do something different when you teach from the Spirit. You see the broken and the healing at once, and you are part of the vehicle that takes all of the energy and story you feel and see to a place where they all matter, where it all makes a difference, and to a place of impact. When we realize our health is significantly impacted by our inside growth as much as our outside growth, and that the way forward has more power through this kind of transformative growth, we'll make better changes in the times ahead. I see more and more people getting it. The Rising is ahead.
All images in this blog post are designed by Freepix.