No Shit, No Lotus

Published on 2 May 2024 at 18:47

"You must not try to be too pure. Fly closer to the sea"

Sinead O'Connor 

People’s opinions about yoga on social media are a thousand-petal lotus. Each topic explored is a flower, and each opinion, image, and commentary, a petal. They bloom in every direction. It may appear that they are a bunch of shit, depending on where you stand, but from a certain perspective, it's all beautiful. All petals equal. No mud, no lotus. I’m being somewhat sarcastic, but there could be some truth in this metaphor. 


I took a couple of years off from social media. Upon my return, I roll my eyes often at some of the content related to yoga. There are so many memes (memes? posts?) saying what yoga is and isn’t. So many rules. So many opinions. So much crap. 


I imagine it makes some people so confused that they throw in the towel before they even begin. Not to mention the yoga fashion and advertising industry and its ability to both and attract and repel certain populations. It is a lot to sift through and yet here I am, adding my opinion to the shit pile (or the lotus).  It's all a matter of perspective.


Based on my experience, defining yoga is very personal to each individual. 


Of course, on a concrete level, you can define yoga as coordinated stretching and breathing. When I started practicing yoga, that is what it was. It was also a nice workout.  I would get very annoyed and defensive when anyone tried to tell me it was something spiritual. These declarations felt invasive and pretentious.  Lo and behold, over time, yoga has become more to me than a workout, but that is for individuals to explore, not for other people to mandate.


The literal translation of the word yoga means "yoke," and to yoke may be further translated as "union."  So, which two or more things does the practice of yoga yolk together? What unites? What does this word “yoke” have to do with stretching and breathing?


In my experience, yoga turned out to be a tool for unearthing stuck energy buried within me, my body, and my nervous system. Over time, yoga helped excavate that which I was unaware of, that which was blocking my life force, that which was causing me torment and deep suffering. 


In my experience, the practice of coordinated stretching and deep breathing ignited the lifelong process of yoking my subconscious to my conscious and my body to my mind. I will even go so far as to say yoga has been a tool for uniting the mundane and the mystical. Most of this was initially difficult, if not brutal. The mystical aspects of my awakening process were not in and of themselves difficult, but trying to share about them has been. 


My yoga practice ignited an arduous healing journey that I was unprepared for. This is part of the reason I am so passionate about yoga and about sharing what I have learned. May you be more prepared than I was. The other reason is much simpler: even after everything I’ve been through, I still enjoy it. More than ever. Yoga wasn’t the problem. The stuff buried within me was the problem. After nearly two decades of practicing yoga, at the age of nearly forty-four, I'm confident that I am finally a beginner.


In my view, there is nothing that isn't yoga. Yoga, for me, is another way to refer to the process of realizing the true nature of life and self.  I view yoga as a natural, ongoing process of my own evolution. Nobody convinced me of this. I came to it through visceral experience. 


Returning to the concrete level, you can work out some agreed-upon definitions of the different styles and class descriptions of yoga, so people have some information and choice about what type of class they want to try. However, on a much more profound level, yoga leaves nothing out. Every moment and every experience have become an opportunity to awaken, to evolve, to heal, and to unite the inner and outer worlds. Why would you want this? Maybe you don't, but you may end up getting it anyway. If we are lucky, we might end up getting what we need instead of what we want. I can only speak about what has happened and what is happening to me. On the other side of my initial brutal reckoning with what was buried within, I suffer less.  I feel better physically, psychologically, emotionally, and yes, spiritually. Even when I face difficulties, there is now an underlying sense of everything being ok.  More importantly, life has taken on an ever-deepening sense of wonder and meaning. 


All of our varied opinions, beliefs, approaches, perspectives, missteps, forward steps, techniques, practices, failures, successes, moods, addictions, traumas, pride, brilliance, awkwardness, beauty, and terror .... it's all included.  It is all part of the yoga and of the lotus of our beautifully & messily unfolding lives. We may not see it now from where we stand, especially if we happen to be standing in some shit, but I see it, and I've been in some shit, so maybe that helps.  


People have their opinions, but ultimately it is personal. 




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