When Yoga Meets Spirit

When Yoga Meets Spirit


It’s been a while between blogs… but this one has sparked my philosophical flow. 
As a long term yoga practitioner and teacher, I like to question how yoga is portrayed (and perceived) and enjoy doing some deep dives back into the ancient teachings to discover how I feel about it so many years on.
Time changes everything and one of the benefits of yoga practice is that it gives the experience of becoming familiar with change so that you can connect with its rhythm rather than fight against it. (Fluid body, fluid mind idea!)

Talking about the concept of ‘God’ in yoga is a topic many might steer away from. In my experience, through consistent practice and time there is a definite inkling towards something ‘greater’ that occurs for the consistent practitioner. Moving from the emphasis on the body and into connection with how the practice makes you receive life.
Connecting with ‘spirit’.

Connecting with Spirit is an internal experience of self realisation and through that, an acknowledgement that we are whole and complete already. It’s not a reliance on finding something else, believing a doctrine but rather a slow revelation of your own existence – and your connection to the world in which you exist. Life layers you with many experiences as you grow, reflect, learn.  The result is cultivation of an inner sense of self that is connecting you with this life around you. Part of – not separate. 

Yoga continually offers a slightly open door to step into these realisations or understandings. But living in the physical world is often the distraction that will draw you away from them. (Which is why you need to come back into self reflection and onto the mat regularly).

Let’s see how this might happen…

Integration. We don’t come to yoga already integrated. That’s why we need practice in the first place. The integration comes about as you pay attention to self – this body, breath, mind. Watching, moving, returning and stepping into a cycle as natural as the movement of life. You don’t try to ‘fight’ what comes next in yoga practice – you learn to accept and flow with it. (If you are fighting it this might indicate you are not yet ready or need to take a different path or view). 

Like a river that flows, that momentum or energy you bring to practice starts to wash away the debris that might be clogging the layers you are working with. Body, mind, personality, emotions. Letting go of accumulation. Shedding the old and receiving the new.
(This is why, in the tradition I teach in personal practice is seen as the means to transformation. Getting on the mat day after day, with just yourself, doing the same practice, watching and learning…)

Prana. In a yoga sense, this flow you experience in practice is prana (animated life force) moving and creating energetic space. Prana can be felt as a representation of the Divine. We are creatures of energy and sensation so when the body feels good, we feel good. Not the superficial ‘we’ but the deeper ‘we’ that observes and watches.
When you feel good within, the way you observe life changes. 
Cultivating space in yoga practice through all of the tools (breath, mantra, posture etc) is the goal to connecting with Prana. When there is space, there is a shift in perspective. Like the river, things start to flow.

As romantic as it might sound, sometimes the experience you glean from this shift or perspective is like being in a beautiful place in nature – watching a glorious sunset or sunrise, standing in an immense, old forest.
When you place yourself within such a radiating presence like Nature (or Prana), there can be a connection to the Divine. Spirit. However you name it.

Isvara. Yoga teaches we are all spirit but doesn’t name any ‘God’ as the means to experiencing this. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the word Isvara is mentioned as a greater force or a ‘special principle’ that is not limited by the actions, thoughts and obstacles that affect humans. Isvara is the source of all knowledge. It may be a representation of Spirit, God, Nature or something else… personal choice.
Isvara is something you may form a connection to – a concept of ‘greatness’ in which you are part of a cycle that is ever changing. This connection is made by letting go of trying to control, change or direct but linking with the ebb and flow of all around and within you.
Letting go of grasping.
There is no separate-ness, only what the Mind creates.

Nature has a lot to do with this connection to spirit in the Yoga and Ayurveda teachings. Images of nature are used in yoga to reorient us to this connection of being part of Nature. We are all made up of the five great elements (maha bhutas) that constitute life. Earth, water, fire, air, space. 

Our bones and physical structure represented by earth.
Our fluids and blood flows through water.
Our digestive capacity and processing of nutrients by fire.
Our capacity to breathe and function via the oxygen/carbon dioxide interchange by air,
Our existence within an inhabitable world by space.

The form you inhabit is made from the same stuff as all other living beings.
This is quite profound when you really think about it. And it begins to lend an awareness to a greater force or experience that is driving the ‘big picture’ around this.

So how does this all tie into yoga for me (or you)?
The beauty of finding God/Nature/Spirit (whatever you want to call it) in Yoga is in its slow revelation. You don’t go looking for it but at some point it might tap you on the shoulder and reveal itself. In a myriad of ways. 

Hard to describe in words but easier to connect with in feeling – which comes back to offering the time and space to reflect, practice and reside within.
Sitting with what is. Receiving what arises.
Treasure it.

Enjoy your yoga!

Jill

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