by Joe Miller
Yoga is: (please check all that apply)
· Union of mind and body
· A spirit-y exercise system
· Technology for transformation
· A living philosophy of sustainable balance
· A justification for buying yoga pants
· Techniques for controlling body, mind, and breath
· A way to achieve superpowers (!?!?)
· Simply being in The Now
For more than 25 years, I have been an explorer and practitioner of the ancient art and science that is yoga, so I am in no way qualified to declare:
YES, yoga is all of these things, and more.
Yoga is many things to many people. For some, practicing yoga means drawing wisdom, perspective, and tools from remarkable historical texts. For others, practicing yoga means using pranayama (breath practices) and meditation to affect the nervous system and/or have a deeper experience of Self or soul. For most, practicing yoga means focusing on skillful, smart asana (physical postures) as a practical way to wring out the stresses of modern life.
It's tempting to conclude that a yogi focusing on physical practice is shortchanging themselves. But if we step back and consider the miraculous bodies we've been given, the opportunity and rewards of actively aligning with body intelligence are extraordinary. We can clear long-term patterns of pain and dysfunction, and we can find workable support for structural challenges - both those we came into the world with, and the ones we've picked up along the way. For yoga suggests that from the moment of conception, each of us is in a constant state of growth and expansion, and that this is true for our whole life, even if we are unaware of it.
We are always evolving (even though we do have the freedom to slow our 1 excerpted from the Summer 2015 Willow Street newsletter What Is Yoga? by Joe Miller progress to a glacial pace). Also constantly changing and expanding is the world in which we live: our roles, responsibilities, and relationships shift, both due to changes we make and due to circumstances beyond our control.
So here we find ourselves: evolving beings in an ever-more-rapidly changing world. Yoga offers powerful tools for this human condition - for helping us to navigate these currents of change, and to cultivate the flexibility in ego and in mind/body to promote a healthy, productive relationship with ourselves. In times of change - which is all the ?me - internal and external struggle are always available. Practiced skillfully, yoga is an opportunity to become aware of and shift away from the struggle, and to move toward the greater ease that comes when we are able to recognize our role in the natural rhythms of the Universe.
What I have found in decades of practice and teaching is that whatever we seek from yoga, we always find more. Maybe an injured shoulder brings a yogi to practice, but what she finds is a greater ability to be present with her kids. Maybe a yogi's first experience in handstand gives him the confidence and new perspective to pursue a more fulfilling career.
Maybe you will come to see us because you want to touch your toes or tone your bum, and what you'll discover is a deep sense of belonging in a community of students and teachers dedicated to expanding our experience of life.
So this is what we offer at Willow Street: more. We work joyfully to be a family-friendly, neighborhood yoga studio, where every body can find a practice that supports their health and wellbeing. And at the same ?me, we are a world-class yoga school full of rigorously trained teachers committed to using and personalizing yoga's tools for our own lives and practices. We are each of us, all of us, evolving together.