Yoga is all about making connections. The word literally means "to yoke" -- to join, to unite, to attach one thing to another. To bring together. Many of these connections are deeply personal, forged in the silent space of our own inner landscape. We focus on our breath -- we listen to its sound, we measure its rhythm, we pay attention to the physical sensation as it courses through our bodies. We connect it to our consciousness. The breath then becomes a conduit for further connections, deeper connections. It’s the way we sync our minds with our hearts, our thoughts with our actions, and our duties with our desires. It’s the way we cultivate strength and yet remain, paradoxically, at ease; we breathe into areas of tightness and discomfort -- be they physical, emotional, or mental. Yoga defies superficially imposed dichotomies by uniting the seemingly incompatible. It’s a practice of both/and rather than either/or; we learn to be soft and strong, still and active. Coming to our mats allows us to weave the colorful threads of ourselves into an intricate tapestry. Nothing clashes, nothing is mismatched. Every strand belongs, has a place, is necessary.
We’re aware of these connections precisely because they’re so individual, so immediate; they’re both borne of us and become us. Vital as these interior connections are, though, they don’t tell the full story. Yoga is as much about joining us to one another as it is about aligning our internal selves. Practicing yoga connects us with ourselves, but it also -- perhaps more importantly -- connects us to something greater, something bigger. Whether we notice it or not, the act of sharing the same physical space, of stretching and twisting and moving into the same asanas, of tuning into the same buzz of collective energy, creates an intense intimacy with the kula, the community.
The journey we take each time we come to our mats is at once inward and universal. Even breathing -- the most fundamentally personal, life-sustaining act -- becomes a joint experience: we create a drag with our ujjayi breath that’s audible not only to ourselves, but also to the people around us. Our inhales and exhales are the wave we ride throughout our practice, but they can also serve as an anchor, a reminder, for our fellow yoginis. Sometimes unknowingly, our own breath -- our prana, the force behind our very vitality -- propels others to life, lightens their burdens and enlightens their experience. Was there ever a sweeter surprise?
Ten years ago, we were shaken. Not as individuals, or as family members, or even as a nation, but as something broader, more all-encompassing. We were shaken as human beings. As people. As knitted embodiments of the same universal spirit.
Nine Eleven, 911, September eleventh -- whatever you call it, however you phrase it, the associations are the same: tragedy, death, despair, disbelief. And yet, just as the pristine, impeccable lotus flower grows from the darkest, murkiest depths of the ocean floor, so too does the resilience of the human spirit outshine the forces of destruction. There will always be sadness -- too many lives lost, too many structures dismantled, too much fear and fighting and finger-pointing. But there will also be powerful renewal. Indestructible, indelible connection.
People are interdependent -- we’re meant to lean on each other and support one another and get swept off our feet loving each other. People are also inherently life affirming; the small acts of beauty, of compassion, re-stoke the fires of our faith because they are so much more potent than the powers of destruction. Because we empower them as such. All it takes are humble gestures: a child pooling his quarters to send to 9/11 families, a moment of silence to honor the fallen heroes, a breath of fresh air after months of ash and dust. The sound of another’s breath. We crack open our hearts and lift up our heads and open our eyes to light -- even when darkness threatens to swallow it -- because we have each other. We’re connected.
At the end of our yoga practice, when we bow our heads and offer “Namaste” to our neighbors, what we’re really saying is:
“I recognize you.
I see you.
You’re not alone here.”
So this weekend, as we gather our spirits to mourn, to pause, to reflect -- to remember -- let’s nurture the bond. Let’s honor and cherish the divine light dwelling within each of us, and keep it shining. Let’s do yoga.
(Which is really to say, let’s connect.)