When we think about detoxifying and cleansing our lives, where do we start? Yoga is part of that beautiful journey. As the Bhagavad Gita reminds us: “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” How do we find our true self? How do remove the clutter, the preverbal layers of the onion to find who we really are? Who are we truly meant to be?
All of these questions, are influenced, largely by what we are told throughout our lives. You need to be a “good girl (or boy),” “You are meant to follow in your parents footsteps,” “you are expected to ________(fill in the blank).” From an early age, we are essentially told who we are, and in western culture, up until recently, we often didn’t leave much room for self-discovery. As adults, we are left asking lots of questions when we finally leave the nest of home for work or college. Influence doesn’t stop there though, social media, a new group of peers, and a person’s level of self-esteem continue to influence, and sometimes dictate the lens through which we see ourselves.
My personal journey has helped me truly understand this idea of peeling back the layers. I tried to always do what I was told to do, be a good student, always be ‘nice,’ even to the extent of marrying the person that I though my parents wanted me to marry, even though I knew it wasn’t right (which ended in divorce). It has been a twenty-year journey through my yoga practice, faith, and personal reflection and meditation to bring me to the place I am now. Believe me when I tell you, there are still layers to be peeled away, discoveries to be made, brokenness to be acknowledged. It’s the gift of ongoing discovery that keeps me going.
As we emrace the journey, let’s consider the Sanskrit word “yoga.” It is derived from the root “yuj,” meaning to “yoke,” or to “join.” That’s why yoga is often thought of as union: between the breath and movement, the mind and the body, the self or consciousness (the atman) and the Divine. My daily practice has helped me find the union or connections that were broken in my life and eased them back to a place of completeness or wholeness. Of course, there are always random pieces to pick up along the way, and that is why staying in a committed practice is of the utmost importance.
What you may be thinking is, “There is no way I have time to DO yoga every day.”
Contrary to western thought, continuing your practice should feel like a respite from the normal day to day tasks. The time you spend on the mat doesn’t have to be at a specific time (although sometimes that helps people) or at a studio. It can be as simple as going to a favorite place in your home, someplace outdoors that brings you peace, or even in a chair near the sunlight of a window. Maybe the most important part of a practice in our hurried western culture, disconnect. Put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb,’ close your laptop, shut off the tv. Seek quiet, peace, space to think, breathe, and move.
Begin by picking 3-5 postures that make you feel good, become aware of your breath before beginning your movement, observe how you feel before and after your practice. If you want to reflect on the progression of your practice, as well as your journey, write it down. Acknowledge how you feel when you go to your space, when you breathe and move in a way that helps your journey. Find your ‘self,’ give your ‘self’ a place to be honest. What you write down at the end and/or beginning doesn’t have to be flowery or poetic, it can be as simple as “I will leave this crappy day behind me.”
As we begin our journey of, through and to the self, perhaps we will learn to forge those deeper connections between the various parts of our fragmented self, our body and our mind, and between each other.
Define your personal practice. Do not let another do it for you. This is the promise of yoga: to make us whole.
Find me at Zen Den Yoga and Wellness Center, 203 South St., Suite F, Athens, PA 18810