The term “yoga” is diverse in meaning. In a literal sense it means “to yoke” or “to unite”. Traditionally yoga was practicing by wandering ascetics, a person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention. You could argue that that is still partly true in the western modern yoga we are familiar with. While those ancient yogi’s would leave the world behind to find liberation, we modern yogi’s leave our stressful life behind to find union with our more peaceful self.
Part of the beauty of yoga’s transformation into our modern day is its inclusivity. All practitioners of yoga, regardless of their background, can use yoga to “unite” with whatever they see fit. That could be religious or not religious. This has not always been in the case in the history of yoga. Yoga has become flexible like that *pun intended*
I have been practicing yoga since I was nine years old. My first class was in Mexico. We practiced in a round, palm hut, with mirrors leaning against the middle pole. My instructor was an American woman who had trained with Bikram in her younger years. My first interaction with yoga was playful, which has stuck with me throughout my entire life. While I play around differently with my yoga practice than I did when I was nine, it has set a defining tone to my relationship to yoga. It’s purpose and meaning has shifted throughout my whole life and I imagine it will only continue to do so.
Yoga and I have a multifaceted relationship. I am a yoga student, teacher, and academic scholar. This has given me an incredible understanding of yoga. Studying yoga academically has given me an authoritative knowledge I am forever grateful for. I’ve dived deep into the social change possibilities of yoga, which is truly where my interests and passions lie.
I believe yoga is for everybody and every body. It is now a mainstream practice and thus has become a microcosm of the bigger community of the western world. This has its positives, negatives, and neutrals to it. As a teacher I try to keep myself as aware as possible of those types of influences. I focus and work my best to create a humble, safe, and inclusive atmosphere for my students.
Yoga is about more than our physical body. The physical becomes a gateway to other types of discovery. This discovery is an investigative adventure into ourselves. In a yoga practice we explore our inner and outer physical landscape as well as our mental landscape. Yoga connects us to our inner community and outer community.
I will end this little blurb with one of my favorite philosophers I discovered in my yoga studies. French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, puts a strong focus on our ethical duty to one another. His philosophy strikes a deep cord within me and has helped develop and solidify my personal philosophy as a human, a yoga student, and a teacher.
“The identity as an “I” is utterly dependent on what is “Other”. The human is the possibility of being for the other. The possibility is the justification of all existing.”