Yoga = Union

Photo of me by Nicole Ross, Creative Quarterback

Originally published November 2016

So, it’s been a roller coaster of a week. A roller coaster of a year, actually.

But, I don’t want to merely add another drop in the vast ocean of post-election musings swimming around out there. I don’t want to talk about politics, exactly. Because no matter how you voted or how you are feeling after the results, it’s my hope that what I’ve decided to say here will resonate with you.

On a personal level, the divisiveness of this year, the constant upping the ante on shock value, and the culmination of it all in the Big Event of this week has caused me to look closer at myself. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What is most important to me?

There’s that old saying, you can’t love someone else until you love yourself. My heart hurts because of the hate that has surfaced recently, and for the people who are feeling that emotion so intensely. This is nothing new – it’s haunted humanity throughout all of history.

There’s a lot of talk now that if you are feeling helpless, you should get active locally. You can’t get more local than yourself, but many people are constantly overlooking that. It’s much easier to look elsewhere for validation, or for a scapegoat.

Oh yes, you knew this was coming…the answer is yoga. This week, my primary response was to meditate. I was called to stillness, to turn inwards, to center myself. For as long as I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve been saying that the reason so many people are drawn to it is because we have lost touch with our ability to connect to ourselves. We are so busy directing everything outwards. We don’t value stillness and introspection, it’s not active or productive enough. People resist yoga because it’s not a good enough workout (ha), and meditation because it’s just sitting there doing nothing. Why is it then, that the positive results of these practices are so dramatic?

Through yoga, meditation, and the more mindful way of being that they foster, we are able to soften our negative edges. We come to understand what it means to connect with others, with animals, with nature. We marvel at this skill we have ironically lost through a steady stream of so-called advances, that have left us feeling more alone than ever. Despite the Internet, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever the next big social media phenom is, we live in a disconnected culture. Technology has caused us to become disconnected from ourselves in ways that threaten our humanity. Whether we realize it or not, we crave connection on a more simple, primal level. This means enriching our lives by spending time with other people, spending time outdoors, and reveling in the basic processes of moving and breathing – as we do in yoga and meditation.

Consider that the word yoga means union. After more than fifteen years of doing my own yoga practice and teaching hundreds of others, I’ve had many warm, fuzzy moments that have sometimes been hard to define. Yoga is so appealing because it is cumulative, and because there are connections forged through it. Every time I’m on my mat I connect to something inside myself. Every time I teach or touch someone, we connect. It all adds up.

I see disconnection as the biggest life challenge we face in our culture at this time. Whenever we get on a path of disconnection and continue down it, we move away from an understanding of what we need to create meaningful connection in our lives, and we lose things: perspective, physical and emotional health, relationships, and our potential for happiness.

But reconnecting requires effort and energy. It requires working on ourselves first. And like I said, it’s a lot easier to direct everything outside of ourselves. And I’m not saying that every problem you have will be magically solved by stepping onto your mat or sitting on your meditation cushion. These practices require dedication. So give them a chance. Stick with them. Come back to them if you’ve wandered.

Dignity. Humanity. Tolerance. Respect. Non-judgement. Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. 

If we take care of our inner selves, these qualities can surface, and we can continue to cultivate them.

There is a reason I do what I do, this teaching yoga thing. And right now I remind you – start with yourself, and stick with what keeps you most true to who you are, who you want to be, and what you value most. Namaste, the divine in me honors the divine in you.