“Yoga is not a discipline, though it begins as such. It is a way of being in the world.” – Amanda Ings
What has my journey with Yoga been about? It’s been about grace. It’s been about devotion. It’s been about love, surrender, and the art of letting go. It’s been the driving force to my own evolution, and the force behind my small piece of our revolution; my small ripple in this masterpiece.
It’s been about letting the beauty of things stop me in my tracks, and letting my consciousness be elevated. We can fake it ’til we make it – if we keep our bodies, our minds, and our hearts elevated – attuned to beauty, to love, to generosity, to humility, and to the grace that weaves the webs of our lives. We eventually come to experience and embody more elevated states of being. We come to experience being in Yoga.
Yoga wasn’t always all of this for me. I began the same way most westerners do – thoroughly immersed and enamoured with the physical practice of yoga postures, or asanas. I thought this was “practice”. I both rejoiced and guilted myself into getting on my mat daily (at different times throughout my journey), and I built a sense of self upon being a “Yogi”, a.k.a someone who makes particular shapes with their bodies daily. This practice of asana was, of course, benefitting me at the time. It was preparing me for what was to come. The practices of Yoga – the eight limbs of Yoga, as ancient sage Patanjali scribed them for us all those years ago – of pranayama (breath control), asana (postures), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), concentration, the yamas and niyamas (ethical codes to live by) – these are all merely tools to prepare a student of Yoga for what may come – an immense amount of power, energy, and realization. In order to hold more light, we must increase the wattage of the lightbulb, right? The practices of Yoga do this – they increase our capacity to hold the energy and power (or, in Tantra, the Shakti) available to us. Our capacity to bear witness to, to hold that energy, is cultivated too by the practices of Yoga – bringing us into states of ever-more stillness, (or, in Tantra, the Shiva-consciousness); an ever-abiding state of immovable and unshakable presence.
After years of asana practice, I began to really question what I was doing. I questioned the entire practice of Yoga, and its validity. This is actually, to my current understanding, a fundamental and essential piece of “the practice”! I questioned what I was really doing, and whether it was “working”. I think the quality of any experience can be defined and refined by the questions we ask – and we will only ever truly come to know that which we are brave enough to question. The more I questioned, the more I realized that now I was really in a process of Yoga; dissolving all the ideas and concepts I had built around myself and experiencing what lay beneath, or perhaps more accurately, “through”. What lay past my ignorance? It’s funny, because although the basic translation of the Sanskrit word Yoga is to “yoke”, or to unite, it seems to me coming into Yoga with ourselves is less about merging our pieces together, and more about dissolving all the boundaries that we perceive to be there in the first place. The “me” and the “you”. All boundaries that create this interface we have collectively agreed to interact with each other on. Boundary by boundary dissolves to reveal what has always been essential and good and whole, through all the layers. The One that is always there, abiding throughout the Many. The Many is the One, and the One is the Many.
Now, the way I walk is the practice. The message I send to the earth each time my feet touch its surface is my practice. The gentle touch of the air on my skin, the inner softness and willingness that allows me to feel more deeply, more fully, everything that surrounds me – this is the practice. The moment, any and every moment, that gives me an opportunity to embrace, soften, deepen, and let go of another “thought-that-was-me-but-that-too-is-not-me” layer of this body-mind system that houses this atman, this soul. Yoga for me is a dissolution of all that I thought I was into all that I am, which is vast and wide and yet immeasurably still; invisible. Yoga is a coming into the complete realization that this is Divine. That I am whole. Yoga; to experience one’s self as Unity itself, rather than experiencing one’s self through the fragmented bits that we often deem to be more reputable parts than they actually are. It is not to say that these fragmented shards will not shine you back to the Whole, for they will. Yoga is simply revealed in that moment of recognition that the Whole fragments itself in order to experience itself, in order to recognize itself.
The Practice is an unrelenting awareness that never leaves us alone – it demands that we “show up”, and hold ourselves to an immeasurably beautiful standard – one that is True. And the thing about truth is that it is the one thing that cannot be defined. It can only be felt. It is something we simply know. And in that way, Yoga cannot actually be “taught”. What can be taught is the practices that may lead you to being in Yoga – with the right conditions, right timing, with grace, and in the finest moments when all the inner and outer structures line up seamlessly to bring forth an experience of Unity.