What is Yoga to me?

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In a conversation with a friend I once described love as “water”. As we all know, water takes the shape of its container, and in my metaphor, I essentially explained that love takes the shape of the relationship you have with another person; so whether your relationship with another is intimate, or merely a friendship, love is still present, but in a different form.  I know you’re asking the question in your head, “well what does this have to do with yoga?”  

Relax... I’m getting there.

 

I’ve only been on this yoga journey, on and off, for 2 years but it has had a significant impact on how I deal with the world around me. Three years ago, I found myself stressing out over my first year of university. In the present day, I still stress out over school; it’s just that now, when I find myself lacking drive or energy, I’ll do a few sun salutations to get me back on track. Essentially, I use yoga to cleanse myself of things that are unnecessarily cluttering my mind. It was during a strong practice recently, that I realized the link between this mental de-cluttering and my (somewhat clever) analogy of love.

 

Yoga, to me, is a river. Like a river, yoga can be gentle enough to smooth the rough edges of a pebble, but powerful enough to carve an entire landscape; in other words, it can help us get through the little issues (like school stress) that come in everyday life, or it can truly change your entire outlook as a person.

 

Just like a river, in a yoga class we’re constantly active; whether it is the actual physical movement of a flow, or the constant stream of thoughts moving through our minds while we’re trying to keep our tree pose still, we’re always dynamic. While some try to suppress this mental movement, I’ve realized now that the only way to get through a class smoothly is to embrace these thoughts, acknowledge them, and move on.

 

Most importantly, yoga and rivers share the same endpoint. While rivers are always running, they will, at some point, end in a larger body of water, like an ocean. Relative to the river, these larger bodies of water are quite still, and although they do move, they move on a larger, more profound scale.

 

In yoga, while we may not be able to completely detach ourselves from the happenings that occur off the mat, the eventual destination is a place of stillness that is deeper than the shallow, and sometimes rocky movement of our practice; the endpoint is the ocean to our river. The changes that occur when we reach that stillness, like the waves of an ocean, are much more profound and have a greater impact on who we are, compared to the small waves of thought that may occur during our practice. In my mind, this is why instructors always say that savasana is the hardest, but most important pose of that entire hour, despite its simplicity. While no two classes are ever the same, having this understanding of where I’m trying to end up adds some consistency to my entire practice. On the larger scale, I will always be seeking stillness.

 

"Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form." - Eckhart Tolle

 

In spite of this long-winded explanation, all this talk of rivers, love and yoga can be illustrated in a simple equation.

 

Love = Water.

Yoga = Moving Water.

Therefore Yoga = Moving Love.

 

That’s exactly what yoga is to me. It’s a moving expression of our affection for ourselves, which allows us the opportunity of real transformation. It’s an hour to shape our proverbial container and create a relationship with ourselves, so that we can fully express our love in a way that is uniquely contoured to who we are. It’s a set of postures and breaths that are all trying to move us towards stillness. When we reach that point, even if it’s only for a brief moment, we realize that it is in stillness that real changes happen.