Do you love your yoga practice or want to start yoga, but often worry about the ancient philosophies/spiritualities that come along with it? If so, you are not alone. It used to disturb me for a long time. In fact, I refused to say “Namaste” in response to my teacher at the end of class. It wasn’t because I didn’t respect them; I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea. After endless hours of yoga and my teaching experience my thinking has significantly changed. I had my own revelations about yoga that I thought I would share with you, along with all my students, as they have made a big difference not only to my practice, but to my spirituality and connection with God. Let me know if it helps you in any way.
Now that yoga has become one of the latest exercise trends (yes, I hate to use that word, but that’s how so many people are looking at it), people from all cultures, religions and races are becoming more involved with the different elements of yoga, not just the asana (postures). Teachers who delve into the deeper aspects of yoga with their dedicated students will find that it becomes very difficult to skip around the sensitive subject of religion and yoga. In many yoga classes the topic is often avoided just as much as politics and religion is at the dinner table. I am sure that many yoga practitioners have never even had such a conversation in a class – after all we are there to get our asana on. Now, I won’t pretend that I know anything about other religions out there but I do know Christianity. As a Christian, I can tell you that my understanding of Christianity and yoga no longer present any conflict. In fact, I have experienced some of my most religiously connected experiences through yoga.
The word ‘yoga’ means Union, and this can literally be union with anything and everything – union with the earth, your body mind and soul, other fellow beings, and most importantly the divine entity that governs us all (whatever that may be). Over and above the fact that I liked this message in general, I was only too happy to hear that one of the messages in the New Testament of the Bible is to be at one with the rest of humanity, and by extension seek the divine in everyone. Jivamukti Yogi’s often start classes with a very beautiful chant – Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bavantu, which means “May all beings be happy and free, and may our thoughts, words and actions contribute to their happiness and to that freedom for all”. Does this not say the same as “Do unto others as you would have others do onto you”?
One of my favourite Sanskrit words – and probably the most well-known one – is “Namaste”. The reason I love it, is that I feel it says the most important thing that we could do for ourselves and others in yoga. Namaste literally means “The divine in me, honours the divine in you”. What that boils down to is that each of us has the divine presence in us – our true self without ego, attachments, labels, or mental/emotional baggage. Many yogic texts say that when you connect at this level, you realise that you are completely at one with everything in the universe, and more importantly the divine power that we are always seeking to connect with. “Namaste” became my way of connecting my religion with yoga because so many readings in the bible talk about us not realising that God is present in everyone. If you went to Sunday school/Catechism you will remember being told that we are all created in His image. Therefore, when we say the divine in me honours the divine in you, from a Christian point of view we are saying I respect and honour that you like me are created in God’s image and therefore I will honour you like I would God himself.
On realising this, my issues with sanskrit, chanting and meditation in my yoga practice were transformed. I took up meditating everyday happily when I had my own little revelation of the scripture reading “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In yoga, we are constantly preparing the mind to be as still as possible not preoccupied by streams of thoughts. Yes, those thoughts will pop up, but the discipline in meditation is to allow those thoughts to pass as quickly as they entered the mind. The benefit of this is:
- that you immerse yourself in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or future. My teacher often said that there is no pain in the present, only the past and future. The more you are living in the present the happier you will be. Interestingly, I read that emotional pain lasts all of seven minutes, and everything else is self-inflicted. We struggle tremendously to let go, wasting all our energy on past events that have had an effect on us. Meditation teaches us to let all of that go by living in the moment – as they like to say.
- by developing the ability to surrender and let go of your thoughts, attachments, ego’s etc, (ie, be completely still); and completely immerse yourself in union with everything you will connect with the divine power that surrounds us constantly. You will see the divine in yourself, and in everyone/everything around you. You will realise that you, me and the world are exactly alike because we all have that divine true self in us. We all have God in us.
Some of my experiences whilst meditating have been profound once I focused my energy on being involved in the present. I felt completely connected and spiritually moved. Since then I can say that when one is able to still their mind for long enough you will know that she/he is God. Since these little revelations, I have no issues with yoga and my religion. In fact, when I am feeling disconnected and out of touch spiritually, I am only too happy to pull out my yoga mat and prepare my mind to open up to the divine in me. Om Bolo Sat Guru, Bagavan, Qi Jai – “God Is the Only real Teacher, Alleluia”… Namaste happy people 🙂