As one becomes deeper in their yogic practice, we realize it’s not just about practicing asanas or movement, but also interweaving the practice of meditation. Last weekend, I attended a conference at Omega. One of the presenters, James Fox has taught yoga in San Quentin prison for over a decade. He was a tall man of silver hair, deep blue eyes and stoic structure. His movements were thoughtful, clear. In the final panel of the conference, he stated:
You are not doing yoga if you don’t meditate
Pow – that hit the audience hard. I felt the reactions of the 200 people in the room. Hmm...he does have a point.
Approximately over 20 million people practice yoga today, with an overwhelming affinity of yogis focusing on the asana (physical) practice, not so much delving into the meditative aspect. Sure, we do yoga to relax, but do we take our practice off the mat into our every day world? There are quite a few yogis dedicated to the practice to get in shape, be flexible for a particular sport, or to help with the ever-increasing epidemic of obesity and other eating disorders. But, how many yogis have you met that have a daily meditative practice as well?
In Holly Hammond's article Yoga's Trip to America, she explains how yoga was widely introduced to the West in the 1950s by Richard Hittleman. When he returned from his studies in India, he began teaching in New York. He went on to selling millions of copies of books (about yoga) and pioneered yoga on television in 1961. His teachings have influenced how yoga has been taught ever since. Although he was a student of the sage Ramana Maharshi and very much a "spiritual" yogi, he presented a nonreligious yoga for the American mainstream, with an emphasis on its physical benefits.
Although the initial push was asana, we are finding more and more teachers looking deeper into their practice by either using Pranyama (breathwork) and meditation. This weekend on June 2nd, Kate Graham and Julia of Hudson Yoga are hosting a Pranayama (rthymic control of the breath) class viewed on DVD. Meditation classes have are hosted monthly by Natural Awakening Magazine at various locations throughout Westchester, with laughing hearts yoga's breast cancer classes, and becoming more popular at various studios.
Meditation is a powerful way to open our mind, gain more focus and clarity, help heal the body, and create a mind/body connection. It can help gain a deeper understanding of others, and most importantly, ourselves. We can begin to recognize the barriers we have built up long ago, and have come to work around in our everyday interactions with others. The connection to the true goodness inside each of us unfolded, revealed and nurtured. Knowing and feeling we are good people. We have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. To want to live our lives to the fullest.
Once we find that connection by taking our practice to a deeper level through meditation, we are able to let our spirit soar, and take on our journey in life. Tara, a yogi based in Dallas, TX, is a playful and spirited yogi, and author of the poem below. Her poem focuses on how we, as yogis, strive for an imperfectly perfect existence through and understanding of the term Vrikrukti – which means broken, imperfect. We know we have darker spots in our lives, and we notice it and play through it. The more we play, the more we are able to connect to our true selves through yoga, meditation and pranayama. The walls that we have created over the years are no longer there. We are happy to be just who we are, when we want and be happy we are here to enjoy the ride!
In praise of imperfection
Let your spirit soar, spiral and skip
Life is a grand and sacred adventure
Dive in, leap forth, take risks go ahead and fall flat on your tush,
No more doubt,
No more fear and self-denial
No more wasted time worrying, sitting on the sidelines and wishing you were playing
A secret revealed:
We ALL tumble sometimes - getting muddy can be fun!
Learn to somersault, and rise up and blossom like the wildflower you are
Take this moment, this opportunity
Transform your life into one that is dynamic, sparkling, gutsy, fully alive,
Perfection is overrated, if you haven’t noticed not at all possible.
There is beauty in a symmetry, we are all a little goofy, uneven - Vrikrukti
Take your regal seat in the galactic family
Have Fun, have fun
Get over your own self-sabotage,
The world is waiting for you
Final classes of the season: free yoga for breast cancer class on June 3rd at 4pm; Family Yoga class on June 10th at 4pm! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org - preregistration required!
Elisha Fernandes Simpson CKYT, RYT, aka laughing hearts yoga teaches family and kids (ages 7 -18) yoga and organizes free bi-weekly yoga classes for people with breast cancer. Become a friend on Facebook's laughing hearts yoga page.