“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”
Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to describe yoga. Especially to new people who are asking questions about yoga. What is yoga? Will it help me lose weight? What do you do in a class? Why do you spend so much time teaching/studying/practicing?
When I first started thinking about how to describe yoga to people, my purpose was to come up with ways to “market” yoga and Iyengar Yoga. I wanted to help people find us, come to class, and introduce them to our practice.
I think about marketing sometimes. As a studio we depend on having students. Without students, there is no studio. And it is no secret that the practicalities of paying the rent, keeping the lights on, utilities and so forth are important considerations.
It is in the “marketing” of yoga where I get stuck. It’s hard to describe Iyengar Yoga to those who have not experienced it for themselves.
Of course, I could quote the benefits of yoga:
heal from injuries & chronic conditions.
I can cite articles with the scientific research backed by statistics on percentages of people who have achieved relief from pain and calmed their anxiety.
The usual attention-grabbing advertising words do not work here.
But there are benefits other than the surface ones. These are hard to describe.
Common advertising language has no words to describe yoga practice. Sure, the physical benefits attract people, but those who continue to practice over a period of months and years do so because the yoga gives them more than a healthy body.
Those who stick with it find something deeper. I could say “rich, deep, and profound.”
Even these descriptions fall far short of describing what yoga brings. Yoga is the ability to quiet the mind. It helps us provide a deeper experience of who we are — and we turn inward.
After 20 years of practice, I am just now starting to crave a deeper connection to myself…
Wanting to shift my attention inward. Wanting to focus less on the externals.
I have not always been interested in this.
It can be scary to go to an unfamiliar place. And spending time with myself and my ever-wandering mind has never souned appealing.
What will I find there? Maybe nothing. Maybe something I’d rather not see. Or maybe I can catch a glimpse of a new, less external (what am i wearing? how can I be fit?) way of living.
Inner connection has never been on my to-do list. Until now. And I can see that is a process — it comes in stages.
My first stage toward change has been to wish I wanted to.
And in the case of big changes, I am only capable of being willing to want to change.
These stages can last a very very long time before any real work happens.
I find myself in the middle of it now. Maybe you do too.
It helps to hear what others have to say on the subject.
Here’s what John O’Donohue, the Irish poet/philosopher says:
“The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your body brings you toward wisdom and holiness.” – O’Donohue
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – Iyengar
My recent shopping trip took me on an unexpected turn toward the existential.
It’s not every day one sees luck and faith available for purchase — and with faith on clearance.
The iphone in my pocket begged to take a picture. I would have loved sending it to Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter). And the right hashtag (#Targetfunny or #faithluckonsale) to underscore the experience.
But there were errands to run, and I thought maybe I’d circle back to the idea later on.
And just like any yoga nerd, I felt it lingering in the back of my mind.
Why couldn’t I just be contented with having a good laugh about it with my husband?
Because I have to create meaning out of the mundane, and often where this is none. That’s just how I roll.
Still, who wouldn’t be captivated?
I found the holy grail of a happy life – in the aisles of the East Memphis Target!
Clearly some sales executive higher-up deemed luck to be a little more valuable than faith. The powers-that-be slashed a few prices — and voila — the value of faith declined by 50%.
I knew the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras had something to say about this and wondered if he’d also thrown in any ideas about luck.
So I looked it up.
I found some talk of faith. And very little on luck.
The word “faith” can be a loaded word for many. It can be seen as something religious or spiritual or even out-dated. It brings up early childhood experiences in incense-filled cathedrals and Jesus’ “faith of a mustard seed” speech.
Substituting the word “trust” has been a good alternative for me.
Trust can be something like a seed that develops little by little. BKS Iyengar says that trust comes with experience. He describes faith as “felt trust” and says that it is instinctive. And then develops with effort and reflecting on one’s own experience.
There have been times when I’ve found it hard to have trust or faith — even in my yoga practice.
But I still do it. (Yes, and sometimes even just think about doing it).
I see results. I understand faith through my experience. Over time, I am able to believe that yoga can be of help. And that makes faith worth something to me.
As for luck, I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve been at the right place at just the right time too often to doubt my good luck.
Luck can provide valuable resources. But I’ve found that, unlike faith or trust, there are very few actions I can take to create more luck.
Except maybe shop at Target, and be willing to pay full price.
I couldn’t get away from the hand-scrawled sign in this picture. Its message is simple, and it captivated me. I stared at it hanging in the kitchen at a week-long yoga retreat I attended a few years ago, and at the end of the retreat I took a picture of it, took it home and memorized it.
“Just show up” became something like a mantra for me. Nothing can really happen until I do. There are often obstacles (both internal and external) that keep me from moving forward. Many times I am stymied by them. But the one thing I almost always have control over is showing up.
Showing up looks unique for each person and varies from day to day. Some days, showing up means getting out of bed. It can mean requiring ourselves to go somewhere we don’t feel like going — like for dental work or driver’s license renewal. For other times, showing up means listening to someone else’s point of view. Showing up to the yoga mat when I don’t feel like it yields greater results in my yoga practice than the days when I am super-motivated.
Sounds simple, huh? The most important things in life are often very clear. Yet it’s not enough to know what’s important. We have to take action. We have to show up. Nothing happens unless we do. Everyone has access to stress relief and relaxation. It is not enough to know this. You have to do something.
Start where you are with what you’ve got. Start with the body you have. Don’t wait until you have enough time. If you wait until it is easy to start taking care of yourself, you never will. Set aside the time, then show up and see what happens.