“I’m starting to get interested with yoga because of you. I don’t know, but I feel like I need to do something spiritual to find my life purpose or to bring meaning into my life. Do you think yoga would help?”
— Vincent in the Philippines
Yoga certainly could help, Vincent.
In fact, yoga should help you feel “the spiritual” more in your everyday life.
And yet, as you can guess, this is a pretty complex question. Yoga itself is a diverse, multifaceted healing art with a long history of over 5,000 years and so many different components, elements and modern-day variations. I would do you (and yoga) a disservice by giving too quick an answer.
So, let me explain why I think yoga can help you find more spirituality and purpose in your life by sharing how yoga has helped me personally bring more purpose into my everyday life.
In three years of practicing yoga, I’ve come to appreciate yoga as a comprehensive, deep and extraordinarily complex healing art.
On the simplest of levels, yoga is moving your body on a mat for a period of time. You will sweat, stretch, elongate and strengthen the body.
That is the physical practice of yoga, or the “asana” of yoga. Commonly, when we speak of yoga in conversations or see yoga depicted in media, we’re seeing this aspect of yoga–the “asana” or postures. Asanas are physical postures designed for physical, mental and emotional benefits.
The asana practice has many purposes:
- Strengthening and elongating the muscles
- Massaging internal organs, aiding digestion, correcting posture
- Connecting body and mind to the breath (breath, which moves the life force or energy that, in yoga, we call prana)
- Balancing psychic energy centers (or “chakras”) throughout the body
- And much more
This is the yoga you’ll become more and familiar with over time, Vincent.
But as your practice deepens over time, what your yoga is will start to take shape.
Yoga means something different to everyone, and your appreciation for your yoga will influence how you embody this healing art in practice everyday. For me?
My yoga is art in motion. My yoga is body prayer. Yoga is accessing the eternal, spiritual, and universal–God, in other words–in the here and now.
This moment. Through movement. And from movement, through breath. And through the breath, in presence of being.
We move to feel, and when we feel we breathe more consciously, and when we breathe more consciously we cannot help ourselves but to be more and more present in our bodies, minds, and hearts right now.
As a yogi, I would not say that “doing yoga” has helped me “find purpose” in my life.
Yoga reminds me, every day, that my life is my purpose.
My yoga practice has absolutely helped me to find more spirituality in my everyday life because my yoga helps me shed my layers, everyday–sheathes or visages or false-identities that we human beings all wear. These false identities come from our egos, our fear-minded thinking and deficit-minded worry, our confusion, and from the illusion of distance and separation from other human beings (and the Universe, or God).
Yoga itself means “yoking,” unifying or coming together. The practice means to help you yoke mind, body and spirit. We use the physical body as the vessel to yoke these many pieces of ourselves together. And, the more that we integrate and align our hearts with our souls, the more that our false identities whither away and die.
Through the everyday practice of yoga, I believe you will, over time, begin to experience more and more of a sense of yoking, integration, alignment, awareness and “coming together” within yourself.
That is where the spiritual resides.
Most times, a yoga practice doesn’t begin with such lofty goals.
I started to get into yoga because I was looking to experience a healthy, physical practice that I could practice with nothing more than my body.
I had lifted weights in college and grew strong, but from every workout I also felt deathly weak after. Sore, pained, stiff, achy. I knew it was helping me to grow muscle, but in earnest, it didn’t feel great. It didn’t honor my body. It was also an empty exercise regimen that lacked “something more.”
Yoga seemed to promise strength from within.
I knew there was a spiritual side to this strange art form, but I didn’t understand what that was. Maybe, so far as I knew, the spirituality was as simple as moving your consciousness. In other words, yoga obligates you to pay attention to your attention.
To your body, to your breath, to your limbs, to your feet, to your muscles, to your joints. To everything. Without awareness, yoga is meaningless. Yoga obligates you to focus your mind into this moving meditation, rather than letting the mind run rampant, as it tends to.
But I never could have wrapped my mind around such an understanding of yoga early on.
So, the advice I would give you is to not overburden yourself to find this profound, deep and spiritual understanding of yoga from day 1, Vincent.
What got me in the door was thinking that this form of exercise held some special promises for me: strength from within, increased health, and some form of internal “yoking” or “coming together” that could lead me into a happier, more peaceful state of being.
So what sense of spirituality do you clamor for in your day-to-day life, Vincent?
Do you wish to use movement and breath to access your soul, and shed through layers of yourself? Is it processing your Self and self-worth through instinct and feeling (and being “in body”) more than thought and mind? Do you seek the feeling of the eternal, spiritual or divine in each moment?
Yoga is a rewarding practice, and one that can certainly help provide you with a deeper sense of purpose, meaning and connection, everyday.
Just remember this:
It’s easy for a yogi to speak in glowing terms about his practice, but all of this depth and reward masquerade behind a whole lot of frustration.
Then again, that’s part of why yoga is effective.
Every motion, movement, posture and self-observation means that yoga comprehensively allows us to yoke body, mind and spirit as a unified exploration of spirit, self, God, one another, and love.
With all that I say, give it a try, Vincent! Go for it.
And, of course, make sure to enjoy the journey :)