Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lesson 1: There is no "I" in Yoga

While there were so many highlights to my adventures in India that both deepened my yoga practice and also left me with tremendous gratitude, there is a lot that I have yet to share.  Some experiences that I will keep sacred and refrain from sharing, and some over time will find there way to the blog.  Many people would think I am so lucky to have spent so much time in India, learning with incredible gurus, teaching yoga, volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, and much more.  While my experience was nothing short of amazing, my expedition did come with some challenges.  Tremendous thanks to my family and friends for taking such good care of me for 4 months, and thank you to blog fans who followed along my journey.  Prior to leaving for my trip, I did have a health condition that only worsened with my travels, leaving me in serious need of medical attention a few times.  Of course I kept this situation to myself while doing Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training, and put my trust in God, and at one point I thought perhaps this trip is so magnificent because this is the end of my journey.  It was not, I am still here, back in North America, slowly adjusting to the time zone difference.

One thing I noticed was the energy of stress that was in the air when I came to the beautiful Toronto Airport. Perhaps that is why Yoga is beneficial for people in this part of the world.  While driving home my father drove in a special lane that is designated to people with two or more passengers, as a way to promote car pooling for a better environment.  The other lanes were filled with back to back vehicles driven by people so anxious to get home.  While India would have the orchestral sounds of honking horns, random chickens and cows that cross streets, motorcycles with entire families riding helmet less, and the occasional giant trucks filled with bales of hay and 9 to 10 people sitting on top,  the air of stress is not as common in India as it is in the Western part of the world.

So it makes me wonder, why and how can this part of the world benefit from the ancient wisdom in India beyond just wearing trendy yoga clothes, mala beads, and flowing through Yoga postures?  How can we learn as a society that it is more than the external clothing.  The practice itself is so deep and creates an essence in an individual, with inspires a Sangha, that only later colors a nation.

In India you can see slums that have a fourth wall as a mansion, you can see extreme poverty with joy filled smiles that no drug could recreate, you can be lost and have every person offer to help direct you to the right place, and yet in North America we hide and avoid the site of poverty, we complain when we have regular meals and a roof over our head, and we rely on our GPS before we dare to strike a conversation with another person.  With our technology of iPod, iPhones, iPads we have the ability to connect with those who we choose to connect with and fail to realize how we are in fact isolating ourselves further, perhaps that is why these products begin with "I".

So after months in India, the thing that I understand more than anything is that there is no "I" in Yoga.  Yoga is a Sanskrit word that translates into union.  So when we search for ways to brand this ancient practice with roots in Vedic History that both myself, and no 200Hr or 500Hr Yogi can begin to understand, when we deny the vedic roots of yoga to alleviate any unnecessary guilt or insecurity we may have related to our own religious beliefs, when we attempt to justify a diet that is both harmful to our bodies, animals, and our environment, when we cling to defining ourselves with updated overpriced Yoga apparel, when we insist on boasting about our asana.....perhaps we should ask how much Ego is inspiring our practice.

I met so many brilliant Gurus who do not rely social media to promote themselves or their teaching.  Many who have devoted their lives to the practice of Yoga, and shine with a light of peace in their eyes that I hardly see in North America.  They have never even heard of Facebook or a Blog, and some requested to not be mentioned because they believe the true practice finds its way to the aspirant without marketing.

Does this mean that we should live in a cave, practice in a dothi, never market our Teacher Trainings and classes, and study Vedanta extensively?  No, because imitation has no authenticity, and in this part of the world social media can be used to share light if we choose.  Instead, perhaps we should just embrace the concept of being a humble student who aims to share love, light and peace by living it......and challenge ourselves to slowly let go of attachments to our past, to our feelings, to our physical practice, and ultimately to the material definitions that we all will one day realize is an illusion, especially for us who practice yoga. ~ Namaste

Photos: Ambria in Kerala Palace and Kangra Fort.