My class theme this week has centred on a topic that I find deeply inspirational and has been a joy to teach; “Yoga as Prayer”. Let me explain. Yoga has always been a deeply spiritual practice for me, as it is for many of you. My personal practice, and teaching, has changed throughout the different stages and circumstances in my life to reflect that strong spiritual connection. I believe that many of you have also come to Yoga as a result of a mysterious spiritual pull, even if you cannot use words to explain it. If you were looking for a simple exercise routine you would have climbed on a treadmill instead!
It’s true; in class we move our bodies into the classic shapes of Yoga. We breathe. Sometimes we sweat a little (or lot) and discuss optimal alignment in poses. But what if we were to set our intention to bring a deeper meaning to each practice, to each movement and corresponding breath?
Impassioned activist and yoga teacher, Seane Corn, says that asana is a FULL-BODY PRAYER. I agree wholeheartedly. Instead of concentrating exclusively on “step your left foot back, raise your arms, etc.”, what if we strive to cultivate a quality of practice that IS PRAYER, moving reverently through each asana in a dance of sacred offering to the divine?
While Yoga is non-denominational, it is rooted deeply in spirituality. Whether your prayers are to God, Krishna, Allah or the light within your own heart, offering your practice is one way to come back to ourselves. To remind us that the material objects we strive so diligently to acquire are of little importance and that it is through yoga practice that we have the opportunity to remember who we always have been.
Include yourself in your prayers, in whatever ways are meaningful to you. You may ask to become more at ease in your own skin and move about this world in an open-hearted and peaceful way. You may wish to remind yourself that you ARE LOVE and need to act first with love instead of reacting in habitual ways. Expand your prayers to include those close to you, taking the time to pray for those that are suffering. You might bring to mind those that you miss, whether they are far away or have left this Earth. Include a prayer for those that you need to forgive, for wrongdoings, real or imagined. Expand your prayers to the Earth itself and the many creatures that share it.
As you head to your next yoga class, remember that your attitude and thoughts are being expressed through the body. Just as the beads of a beautiful mala are strung together, each pose is strung together by your breath, your intention, and the spirit in which you practice.