By Marci Barth
A day in the life…
I rush to class in my SUV, carving out just enough time between dropping off the kids, leaving work or finishing the laundry to squeeze in 75 minutes of stretching, twisting, flowing, sweating and deliberate breathing. After a final rest… Savasana, the yoga mat gets rolled up, the phone switched back on and the race to the next activity begins.
This is a slice of life in modern American yoga. And we love it! But what brings
us back to the yoga mat? Why do we rearrange our schedules to be sure we can fit in yoga?
With all of the rushing around we do and the necessity that we be everywhere at once, time is like currency, and how we choose to spend it is the question. We could go to Zumba, spin class or dismiss the movement altogether and meet a friend at a coffee shop instead. It is clear that there is something truly fulfilling about yoga.
A deep satisfaction comes from yoga practice through the routine of stretching, breathing and even sweating. By rolling out the mat day after day, week after week, something more begins to emerge, a depth that goes beyond the physical practice. This revelation that there is something more is the entrance to the spiritual side of yoga.
When we describe yoga as a spiritual practice, it implies connection of the spirit to the mind and body—connection to the real Self, the Self that resides deep inside, the Self that was there before judgments, rules and social pressures, the Self that is joyful, free, loving and fearless.
This Self is the true embodiment of You. And it is elusive. Modern psychologists like Carl Jung refer to this Self as the “whole self.” The Yoga Sutras call it divine consciousness. In her book, “Yoga PhD,” Carol Horton puts it this way: “The sense that my practice is enabling me to shed layer after layer of accumulated psycho-emotional detritus has become stronger. It’s like peeling back layers of sediment that block my ability to access the light or witness consciousness more clearly.
This level of spiritual deepening is a tall order for a 75-minute yoga class. How does it work?
As with all of the deep universal questions, the answer lies in simplicity. Over time, through the practice of yoga, a deeper connection is made to the vibrations beyond the physical body. As the practice of asana evolves, we are able to feel more and think less. Breathing with depth and consistency releases tension. A state of relaxation is attained, the parasympathetic nervous system activates, and the mind begins to quiet, to settle. The volume and density of the mental chatter decreases to reveal the internal vibration.
That “feeling-tone,” as renowned yoga teacher and author Erich Schiffmann calls it, feels like home. There is now a connection to the Self in a somatic and energetic way. The body is more sensitive and the mind is less encumbered. We are closer to our center— our spirit.
When we can get a glimpse of our soul, we feel awake and alive. When we sit up after Savasana, we feel stronger, longer, more spacious, energized and relaxed all at once. There is a sense we have tapped into our own inner light, even just in glimpses.
And then we want it again.
So we keep coming back to this physical practice of yoga because it teaches us that what we really need already exists within us. When we realize the connection and give it time and space to cultivate, it makes itself known.
And so we keep coming back…