What is Yoga? The common translation of the word is “union of the body and mind”. While this definition doesn’t say anything about being able to twist ourselves into a pretzel, from the outside perspective this is often what people think Yoga is all about. Perhaps it is because union of body and mind is hard to get a good photograph of?
So have you felt the real thing – union of mind and body? It sounds a bit esoteric but I’m sure you have experienced at least a glimpse of that sensation in asana class when the pose finally becomes effortless or at the end of practice when the stress you walked into class with has melted away?
One of my favorite definitions of yoga comes from Shri Bhramananda Saraswati: Yoga is the experience where you are missing nothing. Over the last few months I had the honor of meeting two women who I think embody this exquisitely.
The first, Geeta Iyengar. I traveled to Pune, India at the beginning of December to spend ten days learning from her alongside yoga practitioners from fifty-seven different countries. She commanded the room of 1300 people with a keen eye. Never wasting a single word, her instructions were direct, precise, and to the point. To me she embodied the archetype of The Wise Woman with a deep well of wisdom to draw from.
Secondly, this past week I had the honor of going on a monkey walk with Dr. Jane Goodall here in Singapore. She speaks so clearly and so calmly that it’s no wonder she connects easily with animals. With quiet confidence she has honed the skills of being watchful, witnessing behavior, and understanding the language of primates. She is such a beautiful example of emotional intelligence.
So I wonder… Could we approach our yoga practice in the same way Jane connects to primates? With clear mind and a wide open eye to see what is in front of us. With patience, curiosity, and joy. Could we approach our yoga practice in the same way that Geeta conducts class? With authenticity, directness, and effort.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” -Isaac Newton