A few weeks back, I met a brilliant woman at a party who, slightly drunk, invited me to her Jazzercise class. And I, maybe a little goofed as well, said, ‘ohmygodyes.’
When I say she was brilliant, I mean it. She had a shine. She radiated. She talked about her classes and her students and her pathways into, through and amongst the roses of Jazzercise with all the verve of a true devotee. Because she is.
The morning came and I totally missed it. Sigh. (And I dreamed of rocking a leotard with a belt.)
But check this out. While the party did its ebb and flow, I learned that this woman teaches Jazzercise five days a week. Two classes a day. And she’s kept this schedule for 30 years. She has an average of 50 students in her classes. People have been following her for decades. This woman IS, essentially, a guru. She initiates others into a knowledge she’s gathered and honed so they may share in some delight for life.
Which made me think a little more carefully about the status of yoga in our world. By and large, it’s still perceived as an athletic, acrobatic activity for the lithe and limber. As someone fairly lithe and limber, I totally get the source of the perception. But, as I’ve muttered a million times when people blah blah blah about their favorite postures, yoga ain’t all that. It’s not limited to striking poses or wearing tight pants. It also isn’t just playlists or awesome sticky mats either.
Yoga is whatever magical activity you do that consumes you. It compels your body to respond to your mind and your mind to attend to your body. The cooperation between the body and mind lets your essential nature—your soul, your self, your absolute and divine you—experience small moments of liberation. Guess what? Freedom of the true nature is the whole point. That’s yoga.
So yoga is a transformative process, meant to release you from the confines of all that silly limitation. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he suggests that we can only clear our perceptions by confronting the obstacles that drop a veil over them. These obstacles will be familiar to us all: ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and an overly aggressive clawing at life. Our practice of yoga is meant to help us see that our bodies and minds are simple tools of perception; that our true nature inhabiting these temporary abodes are truly joyful; that clinging to the temporary is akin to trying to take up residence in a sand castle. Something like that.
All of which is to say that your practice of asana—the poses yoga is so well known for—is only a gateway to a higher ground. And, in truth, your practice of asana is sort of irrelevant. You might like to do Tai Chi instead. Or backward crab walking. Or Jazzercise. Whatever it is that gives you that connection between the body and the mind so your nature can elevate above their transience: that’s your yoga.
Which, of course, begs the question: what is your yoga? And how can you let it grow so that you become a source of joy fueling this world of yours?