Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yoga, Yoga Everywhere...

My first beloved yoga teacher likes to travel a lot. Over the years she has often sent me pictures of herself doing various yoga poses in various locations—like tree pose in front of the Taj Mahal in India, or against a backdrop of the Rockies. I haven’t traveled far and wide as she has, but when I do go somewhere I often have that same desire to do a yoga pose. Thus, the picture of me above, in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, en route to Asheville, North Carolina to visit family (apologies for the imperfect alignment—it was blustery cold and I didn’t want to take my socks off!)
            In fact, one of the handiest and most interesting things about yoga is it’s a very portable form of exercise (yes, you can even “do it” in the car, at your desk, in the bathtub, or on an airplane). But even more portable than the asanas or postures, is the yogic philosophy. It’s pretty much expected that if you are a true yogi or yogini, you will take your yoga with you wherever you go.
            When I began to practice yoga seven years ago there was nothing I wanted more than to do a handstand. I would watch the other more advanced students in my classes with very un-yogic envy, as they all could do handstands, headstands, and arm balances. But though I can now do a handstand wherever I am (as long as there’s a wall), it’s not the poses that challenge me so much as the yogic vow of ahimsa, or non-harming, in thought, word, and deed. And then there’s compassion, acceptance,  forgiveness, nonattachment, and learning to be in the moment. Just to name a few of yoga’s tenets.
            Using yoga in line at the grocery store or bank, when your college kid hasn’t called in a week or more, or when your computer keeps crashing—now that’s really doing yoga. Forget the handstand, the 31-minute chant without wiggling to scratch your nose, or the impossible “side crow” (not, unfortunately, a mixed drink). I guess the same could be said of any religion or philosophy—it’s easier to recite the rules than to actually follow them, and in fact, it’s the very hypocrisy, or, to use a kinder phrase, lack of commitment, that causes many people to give up all together. Though yoga isn’t a religion, you’re just not a yogi if you stand on your hands and then go home and kick your little dog.
            Anyway, I love taking yoga on the road. And hopefully when I’m far too old and wobbly to balance on a ledge in the mountains (though at 93, B.K.S. Iyengar, one of yoga’s great gurus, is still reportedly proficient at all the asanas), I’ll still have a yoga heart. After all, it’s easy enough to bring a pose along on your travels--harder is remembering to always carry compassion in your back pocket.

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