According to my teacher, Adriene, the word “yoga” means “union.”
So I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised today – after nearly a year studying with Adriene and many more years of interest and pursuit of yoga in its various forms – to discover that I didn’t really know this!
Worse, I realized I didn’t really know – don’t know – what that union feels like.
Here, I am tempted to type “what that union should feel like” but adding the word should makes the whole situation feel worse, not better.
What I’m left pondering is, what does union feel like for me?
Or, as Adriene put it this morning, “what is the difference between doing and being?”
What is the difference between doing yoga and being unified from the inside out and the outside in?
I confess I am not completely sure. But I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Adriene and I practice together each day (thanks to the glories of YouTube) and she does the poses like an effortless yoga butterfly while I have had to add a second yoga mat to cushion my knees/elbows/booty from too-frequent falls.
Some of those postures are – wow. Like, who knew the human body could (in theory anyway) do THAT?!
I’m not sure how long Adriene has been practicing and teaching yoga, but I am sure it is quite a bit longer than me. So I try not to be too terribly hard on myself when she glides through yet another yoga session, finding time and breath between each impossible new pose to encourage me, issue instructions, pat her dog Benji, smile (smile!) at her camera crew and stay looking as fresh and unflustered as a spring daisy.
I suppose it is a blessing she can’t hear my parrot, Pearl, screeching his way through each and every session, which I suspect he thinks is his mom’s pathetic daily attempt to learn to fly.
But what I do know is that the first step towards learning anything new is becoming aware there is a lesson. Today, after many months of sessions and many years of other yogic pursuits, I finally realize I am “doing” yoga.
In other words, no part of me is unified in this process. The legs have partnered up – any port in a storm. Each arm is on its own. My torso is in the process of yet more civil unrest as each area – abdomen, pelvis, tummy – vollies accusations back and forth about who caused our latest fall. My neck is distracted….dreaming of our wonderful chiropractor.
And my head has its hands more than full processing instructions from one pose to the next.
The only attendees who seem relatively placid are my feet….at least until Adriene asks them to do that thing where the rest of me is supposed to rest on their heels. Then they get more than a little uppity.
Adriene also talks a lot about marrying the breath to the postures. She talks about it so much I am starting to suspect this may be the path to take away from yoga/being and towards experiencing yoga/union.
All I know just right at this particular moment is that 1) I need to write this down, because if I don’t I will forget it, and I don’t want to be a yoga-doing for the rest of my life. And 2) I now know there is something better – more graceful, intuitive, trustworthy – waiting up ahead in my yoga practice if I don’t forget to look for it.
It would be nice if we – meaning my body, head, neck, feet, legs, arms, etc – could all work together on this – this yoga project and this life project. It would be great if we could just agree to disagree and (with great respect and love of course) get on the same team already.
It would be ideal if the rest of us would allow the breath to lead for once and just see where that takes us as a team.
In quiet moments in my daily yogic practice of meditation, I do occasionally feel unified – we are all on the same page, all “in” to do the meditation together, all eager for some peace, clarity, self-respect.
Now it is time to figure out how to take those moments – the only examples of real yoga/union I can find in my life at the moment – onto my mat.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you practice yoga in any of its various forms?? What has your experience (if any) been of the difference between “doing” yoga and becoming one unified whole as you practice yoga? I would love to hear your experiences!