Meeting on the Mat

A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandi...

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At one point a few months ago while I was writing a post about yoga, Nat said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga, too.”  It kind of took me by surprise, because I’m pretty sure I was writing about the benefits of opening different parts of your body (i.e. your hips, shoulders, or chest/heart), which I didn’t think of as particularly spiritual.  I was also surprised because I wasn’t really sure if I was interested in the spiritual aspect of yoga, and if someone were to ask me if I considered my practice spiritual, I’m not sure I would know how to answer.

Of course yoga’s origins lie in spiritual practice, and it’s often associated with Jainism, Buddhism, and especially Hinduism.  But these days people practice all kinds of yoga (and I’m sure a lot of it wouldn’t necessarily be considered yoga if one was to go by the strictest standards) for all kinds of reasons: weight loss, strength, flexibility, injury prevention, stress management, etc., and every one of those reasons is valid.  It’s obvious at this point that yoga has extended beyond spiritual practice and moved into the mainstream.

But why do I take (or even make) the time to meet myself on the mat?  I’ll admit that I love the physical benefits of yoga; when I’m practicing regularly, I’m much more flexible, the muscles in my arms are more defined, my legs get stronger, and my abs get a bit more firm.  But bigger biceps are not really what keeps me coming back again and again, and feeling less firm in the midsection isn’t what makes me yoga when my mat has been rolled up and shoved into a corner of the room for too long.

I do yoga because like running, it puts me in touch with my body in a way that is tolerable, and that I can even appreciate.  It allows me to let go of the feeling that I have to have control at all times.  It lets me accept where I am on any given day without judgment, makes the things that are bothering me seem much smaller, and gives me a feeling of balance and calm.  I wouldn’t call it spiritual, but it does, in my opinion, create much more of a mind-body connection than a lot of forms of exercise or activity, and that is certainly a huge reason why it appeals to me.

I’m curious to hear what yoga means to you.  Do you see it as more of a physical or spiritual practice, or do you think of it as both at the same time?

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  1. When I came to yoga it was for quiet. Then I got really into the physical aspects of it and how it made my body feel until I got hurt doing it. I was forced to slow down and now the spiritual aspects are what most ring true. So I guess I’d have to say all of the above. 😉

  2. For me, yoga is another form of dance. It’s the purest connection of body and soul; the feeling of simultaneous awareness of every fibre of your physical self and the sweetness of muscles stretched and strong. Most of the time we consider our minds to be a separate entity from our bodies. Yoga and dance let my mind melt back and be whole with my body.

    It isn’t really spiritual for me, because I don’t necessarily use the time to connect to something greater than myself. Instead, it’s just me 🙂

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