why do yoga?
Just what are the effects of yoga? What IS the gift of a yoga practice? If you ask most yogis why they began practicing they will tell you things like; I hurt my foot because of running, so I tried yoga instead. Or, I wanted to get longer and leaner. Over time though, most will talk about how they started noticing other effects like a calmer and disposition after practicing, and most often; a deep sense of relaxation and peace after practice.
When the restlessness of the mind, intellect, and self is stilled through the practice of yoga, the yogi by the grace of the spirit within himself finds fulfillment. -B.K.S. Iyengar
It's almost as if the active mind that operates to keep us safe, fed, and alive takes a back seat when we practice; getting quiet enough for us to feel the calmer energetic spirit that resides underneath and is separate from the chattering mind. Connection to that ‘knowing' part of ourselves can give a calming sense of anchoring and a sense of peace and comfort in the human experience of ecstatic ups and devastating downs.
yoga is the cultivation of a relationship with your most powerful self
Tapping into this knowing is most often subtle, but sometimes it can be a profoundly mind-blowing experience like the one I had many years ago. I've written about that story before, but in case you haven't heard it I'll tell you again.
Many years ago I learned that my best friend's mother whom I knew well and adored had received a terminal diagnosis. My friend was devastated and I felt the depths of her sorrow as real as if it were my own. I am an unusually sensitive person and have had to learn to manage my emotions which can really get the better of me. So, after we got off the phone, I decided to take an evening yoga class; which would be a physically dark place for me to work through these emotions with my breath.
I made a deal with myself at the beginning of class to not fall apart in tears from my sadness; that instead I would dedicate every single thought, every single breath to my friend's mom. It would be my way of honoring her beautiful spirit and my way to say goodbye. We were thousands of miles apart at the time, so physically saying goodbye was not an option. I was soon lost in my yoga practice that night; which became a meditation in motion to my friend's mother. I visualized my memories of her, her face; her actions, and her energy. I dedicated every inhale and exhale to her beautiful spirit. After class, I felt calm and tired and went to bed.
The next day I talked to my girlfriend, and of course, we spoke of her mom and how at that point she was mostly in and out of sleep. I had not told her about my prolonged yoga class meditation to her Mom. At the end of our conversation, my friend told me that her Mom did wake up and talk with her that morning and said,
I almost forgot to tell you that your friend Heather came and visited with me last night.
Hearing that shocked me to the core, but everything in my experience knew that I HAD been with her the previous evening. I had somehow found through sustained focused attention, breath, and directing the emotion of wanting to BE with her one last time that I did affect that outcome by anchoring my breath in a single posted focus to her; stilling my chattering mind, and connecting to her through with the universal within myself.
Let me be clear; had that mind-blowing experience never happened to me; I'd still be doing yoga for all of the countless ways it is good for my body, good for my mind, good for my sense of discipline, and good to humble my ego. BUT, that experience has convinced me beyond any doubt that the science of yoga works, that it is a direct line to a source of wisdom to know yourself, what you are meant to do with your life, and how to proceed in times of uncertainty.
I tell you all of this in hopes that through my story that a seed of knowing is planted within your own heart that there is an ancient practice of humble postures; linked with breath, and resulting in a calm state of focus called yoga that if you practice it with an open heart will also allow you to tap into yourself and experience firsthand what I know for sure: that you and I are made of the same stardust, linked by a creative universal source of energy, and that all of this experience on Earth is meant for us to connect to each other through connecting within.