The simple answer…
Human beings use symbols to convey meaning through culture: language, religion, art, etc.
From the image found in the above link, you can see that all of our cultures began as one in the Middle Paleolithic Period. As the hunter-gathers split up and migrated, many cultures branched off. During the Vedic Period (800 to 500 BCE), a series of religious hymns were published in The Vedas. This was the earliest form of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The oldest of The Vedas, The Rig Veda is the earliest mention of yoga in the written world. That is why you will find many of yoga’s concepts share commonalities with its Eastern brothers/ sisters from The Vedas.
During the 19th century, yoga experienced a revival in India. In the 1930s, yoga came to The West. Here is a visual timeline of this: http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/yogaflowchart1.pdf . Today, thanks to the results of various studies in modern science linking the benefits of yoga to physical and emotional health, yoga continues to spread.
When I was a girl, I used to love writing. While everyone else played with each other on the playground at recess, I often sat to myself reading or writing. For a number of years now, I have been wanting to get back into my inner child and just write for the pure pleasure. Not long ago, someone told me that she had read that when you write about your daily occurrences and then just keep writing when you are done with that, other things will come out. I am going to start trying to do that. Before I spend any time writing any stories or poems, one of the things I find myself wanting to write about is not any particular story or fairy tale but simply about yoga.
About a week or so ago, a very Christian friend of mine called to ask me to teach her about yoga. She had number of back problems caused by stress and lack of proper breathing which could ideally be “treated”/ prevented by yoga. She acknowledges that she knows that her power would lie in knowledge, as many Christians avoid yoga out of fear of temptation to leave Christ. And there are so many people I have met and read about like these: Farida Hamza, a Muslim yoga teacher described in http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25006926 and Laurette Willette of Oklahoma inventor of Praise Moves, a Christian Yoga Alternative: http://praisemoves.com/. I am proud to have a friend who is adventurous to try something new and wise enough to try to learn about it first rather than practice in ignorance as many people do. However, as one who is naturally somewhat open-minded, I have to really think about how to present the concepts of a spiritual philosophy to someone whose philosophy is primarily religious. I believe I will try to begin from a historical perspective, as this site has done: http://www.bigbookofyoga.com/hathayogabook/title-page-hatha-yoga-book-1.php .
In truth, writing about yoga also stems from personal interest. Two Septembers ago, I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. Two others enrolled in the program with me. Only one of the three of us finished. Her lovely blog can be found here: http://greenspottsyoga.com/. It was one of the one most expensive classes I have ever dropped…I am not sure if it is the most expensive class I ever dropped as I have dropped far too many in my life time, but more often than not, I return to it later to try again…and again until success is achieved. I do not intend to return to a yoga teacher certification program until I know without a doubt that I will pass, and so I spend much of my time studying…Only I want to know so much more than what a 200 hour program would teach me! It may be years before I go back to tackle another certification program, I will get there eventually because my goal is not the certification itself but the simple understanding of a philosophy that encompasses both the physical and spiritual world. Perhaps through writing, I can surmise what I have learned.
Yesterday, I went to a free community class that a local studio hosted. I found myself annoyed that the cues weren’t more detailed. For instance, I would not have simply told the students to get up, as the instructor did at one point. I would have made sure they got up from the right side to protect the heart and slowly to avoid dizziness. I would have named each asana in sanskrit and in English so that the students could learn the proper terminology rather than simply giving the cues. I would have emphasized self acceptance of where one is at in one’s practice, as I was sure there were struggling first timers. However, I also know that the class was done exactly how the trendy places do it, purely for the exercise and trendy factor and that is how the other students in there liked it. When I teach yoga one day, I want to make it accessible to all! When I taught yoga at a park for a while, I had a yoga teacher teach me how to create modifications for each body type and age group in my class. I am a long way from feeling ready, but I’ll get there! 🙂
“Attachment to approval stifles your potential.”- Dennis Merrit Jones, The Art of Uncertainty, p. 85.
I think that is what I’ve been learning my whole life, a lesson that would not go away until it was learned. From desire for parental approval as a child to desire for spousal approval in my 20s…
Then, I thought I had it all… Approval from all at last until it was taken away and I learned impermanence. I worked through several jobs and relationships before realizing that there’s more to life than approval from others. There’s so many things to look forward to…So I took some time to enjoy those things. I had the courage to leave everything I ever knew: job and family to do something I wanted to do: travel. Everyone judged and said I should be working and not wasting my money traveling. When I returned, I had no regrets. I was able to find a very good job within minutes of the application process. Sigh! No more need for approval!
Now, I’m back in the rat race, and it has been difficult to stay present. It is so easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel. Slowing down this long weekend has really helped. I am spending my weekend dog sitting. As much as I enjoy the dog’s company, I was finding my mind wandering to the future about how I could pay off student loans and get a house and a dog and then I got stressed out about how to do all that and if that was what I even wanted. It brought to mind so many times when I wasn’t in the present such as when I lived by the beach and would stress out about the period of my life ending and how to make it last by finding another job by the beach. I do not do this when I am out hiking or traveling. I am fully engaged in the wonders of the moment. So, with each breath, I endeavor to find something I am grateful for to smile about for as many moments as possible!
Where will life take me next? It doesn’t matter unless I want to feel anxious! What do I regret? It doesn’t matter unless I want to live in the past! What am I grateful for? That is the only question I need to ask to get me from moment to moment!
Read a refreshing blog entry on wordpress in the pre-dawn hours this morning: http://theskooloflife.com/wordpress/life-is-not-a-to-do-list/ . It got me thinking…A dangerous thing, I know! 😉 I the author insightfully imparts that it is much easier to live in the present when you think of your life as a series of experiences rather than a series of to-do’s on a list. I read the article and for the first time in days, instead of getting out of bed and running to my to-do list to get started on it, I got up and I went outside to experience the sunrise followed by a short walk up a hill to see the view and a sit at Starbucks to watch the people and type out this entry. None of these things I’m enjoying today stressed me out as something more to put into my schedule because I thought of each step I took as another experience rather than another to-do. How would your life look differently on paper if it were a list of accomplishments versus a medley of experiences? How would you perceive or live your life differently? Isn’t life richer when you see it as a medley rather than a list? I feel as if the black bag I’ve been wearing over my head and walking around with it on has been lifted and I can actually take in what is around me because my eyes aren’t in the dark/ on a to-do list.