Meaning and devotion

So….the Pope is coming to Philly…soon, and even my kids have noticed.

The conversations we have had about his visit offset any logistical hassle. (So far. He hasn’t arrived yet.)

One conversation in particular tied back to yoga.

Devout-pilgrims-Tibet-001Emily and I told the kids about seeing pilgrims repeatedly prostrate themselves while walking to temples in Tibet and Nepal.

Pilgrimage

In our everyday family life, we don’t often talk about traveling to sacred, sequestered places. (We do belong to a faith community, but we attend services/meetings only occasionally.)

A yoga practice is an everyday pilgrimage, though. It’s a chance ‘to seal off a particular time where you are more accountable…a heightened time,’ says my teacher David. ‘In the United States, there is a cultural training of the senses outward. It takes a lot of energy to PULL BACK, to turn inward and to open up to something new.’

Asana practice offers each of us a chance to explore the inner landscape of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

‘That is asana! A playground for exploration.’ -David Garrigues

That’s one of the reasons why our yoga works so well for such a wide variety of people. We all use a very specific, proven and defined sequence of postures…but we use them in very personalized ways to explore and address a tremendously diverse array of healing themes.

For one student, Balancing Stick pose might be about mental and spiritual strength. For another, that same asana is building cardiovascular endurance. For a third person, the pose is restoring the arches of the feet and realigning the hips.

Prostration

Done well, yoga is humbling, sweaty, messy and strenuous. Just like the act of prostration.

Defining prostration for my kids was tricky. Cate exclaimed, ‘Oh! It’s like BURPEES!’

I replied that prostration is burpees, but better, because the motion is full of devotion and a sense of higher purpose. We talked about how it might be embarrassing to prostrate yourself and get dirty in front of a large group of people: friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers. We talked about how physically tiring and painful it would be to do burpees for hours–and days–on end. We decided it would be worth it to struggle hard for something we believed in so strongly.

Take heart!

So if you find yourself struggling to explain, defend and make time/space for your practice, take heart. You’re doing something very special. Something sacred that is worth the sacrifice.

Yoga is your daily pilgrimage to the deepest recesses of yourself. It’s a chance to chisel away at yourself…to really examine the issues and problems that matter most deeply to you. So that you can shape yourself and your life with awareness, intent and great care.

Take care of yourself on your mat, so that you can do the great work of your life off the mat.

(Also, please travel safely while the pope is here. Classes will be held as usual.)

 

 

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