Does it ever feel like you learn about something and suddenly see it everywhere? It has been this way for me with elements of my yoga study and practice.
For the past few months, I have been taking a yoga intensive studies course. The last weekend of each month, I meet with a group of ten women and our instructors. We check in. We share our experiences from the past few weeks, our ups and downs, our yoga practice. We chant and breathe together, form asanas, and look into each other’s eyes. There are hugs and tears, laughter and deep inhalations that end in even deeper exhalations.
In between these gatherings, I immerse myself in a world of yoga that lives in film and in books and in my mind. One after another difficult to pronounce name in the Bhagavad Gita.There are images of men—mostly old, Indian men, many with large, grey beards. They can twist their bodies into wild, contorted positions.
It is surreal to me. Foreign.
I have been wondering what kind of connection I could possibly have with this world of devout Indian men, until I discovered Swami Satchidananda. Known to those he has inspired by Gurudev, I felt a kinship to him from the moment I started reading about the yoga practice he created: Integral Yoga.
He has a kind face and patient eyes, and a substantial, grey beard. His words and values make me feel instantly at ease. His philosophy, which became Integral Yoga, was to meet people where they were. The idea that each person deserves to live a joyful, peaceful life echoes the idea of self-sustainability, or beginning at the grassroots level to nurture each person’s wellbeing in order to create sustainability on a global level.
Iyengar was deeply loved, but I did not feel an immediate connection to his teachings, which seemed to involve much contemplation and waiting to perform a pose until one was prepared to create the asana with perfection. I have found Gurudev to be inviting in comparison.
This is not to say that I cannot learn a great deal from Iyengar, with his focus on proper alignment so one does not injure their body. I can also learn from practicing patience.
There is a time to move and a time to ponder how one will move.
What I have found is that if I take time to ponder in the midst of unpleasant interactions, I am finding it less difficult to find the divine in other beings.
My first response may be annoyance or frustration, but if I change the story I am telling myself, my perspective shifts.
Now that I have found Satchidananda, I seem to find his name everywhere, in the chants we sing, bhakti yoga songs, books on yogic history.
Integral yoga blends several yoga practices into one, which speaks to my desire to approach life in a holistic way. I am not an ascetic. I am not a specialist in the study of one single subject. I like blending passions, and I find that I feel more deeply at peace when I listen to this desire.
I like bringing all of these elements together, and I love the foundation for Integral yoga practice:
“The goal of integral Yoga, and the birthright of every individual, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining our natural condition of a body of optimum health and strength, senses under total control, a mind well-disciplined, clear and calm, an intellect as sharp as a razor, a will as strong and pliable as steel, a heart full of unconditional love and compassion, an ego as pure as a crystal, and a life filled with Supreme Peace and Joy.”
~ HH Sri Swami Satchidananda