Earlier today, one of the football dads asked what the purpose of yoga was. Contemplating my response, I thought about how, in addiction to it being different is for each person, yoga is different for me from one day to the next. Some days I arrive to class with the intention to sweat and detoxify both chemical and emotional toxins. Other days I attend class to enjoy the benefits of a deeper stretch, total body strengthening, or simply to find a sense of balance that often gets lost during the weekend. No matter the reason driving me there, I always come away with far more than I bargained for. And it’s always good.
Today’s yoga workshop definitely fell into the more than I bargained for category. To be perfectly honest, I signed up so long ago that I forgot the details of what exactly I’d signed up for. Having no expectations meant I was sure to not be disappointed.
The teacher, facilitator, practitioner, or guru or sorts began the class asking a question similar to Football Dad’s. Acknowledging that yoga is more than a physical practice, he gleaned from the yogis some other definitions of yoga. Words came forth suggesting that yoga might be one of a spiritual nature. He then asked what the difference was… between spiritual and religious practice. No rules, no dogma (just downward dog) was one yogis response. The teacher ran with it.
He went on to say that if we only wanted “stretchy muscles” that there were many other options which would be far easier — like muscle relaxants for example. He talked about life being short and how the practice of strengthening and stretching our body and our minds, as well as letting go of tension, pain, and anger on the mat was only the starting point of the practice. In much the same was as my priest reminds the parishioners to go in peace, today’s instructor reminded us to let our work continue to flow off the mat as well.
After the discussion, the work (or fun rather) began. Instead of the simple Om that kick starts most classes, we were lead in a chant. Actually, it was more like a song which had words that I could not comprehend. I sang along in much the same way as when I was a young girl hearing a song on the radio with a nice sound and words I couldn’t quite make out. This chanting or singing, he said, was one way to stretch the mind. I embraced the moment and stretched to my heart’s content. With our minds stretched, we go down to business.
“Downward Dog” he called. We launched into stretching and strengthening our muscles, flowing from one pose to the next. Sweat oozed from my pores until my whole outfit and mat were completely drenched in sweat. By the end of this portion of the workshop my muscles, which had previously been tight and sore from many hours of cycling, were feeling better. My mind, having fought with stress and worries all week, was relaxed and optimistic.
We sat in meditation for a few minutes before laying down in savasana. I closed my eyes and watched my breath. Sadness and fear came bubbling up. “Let it go,” he said. So I did. Like so many other times in savasana, I watched as painful images of lost dreams, as well as images resembling my deepest fears, moved past my minds eye. I watched, I cried, and I let them go making space for the dreams I have been afraid to embrace. By the time we were sitting upright again I was feeling uplifted as well.
The workshop closed with more chant-like song. I noted having a lot more confidence and courage which came spilling out in a song. I sung in the secret yoga dialect where the words are sung in whatever way you feel like singing them and, likewise, the meaning is whatever you want it to mean.