Welcome to the theme of the month blog post for July and the theme for this month is…YOGA
Say what? The theme of the month is yoga? isn’t it always yoga?
Yoga means many different things to different people. The first question on my teacher training application form is ‘what does yoga mean to you?’ and I always find it so interesting how it means so many different things to different people. As an aside, i also like to ask them the same question at the end of the training and love how the journey of teacher training transforms their understanding of yoga.
Many people think of yoga as the physical shapes we make on our yoga mats when we come to class but the classical meaning of yoga has very little to do with this physical practice (asana). The sanskrit translation of the word yoga is union or ‘to yolk’.
In our physical practice this means to fund union between our body and our breath and then with our mind. This is what we are really practicing when we come together on our yoga mats, to find this union between body, breath and mind which has all sorts of amazing effects on our nervous system, our mind and of course makes us feel great physically.
However, we know that yoga is not just a physical practice, in fact that is just a tiny component of the practice. Spiritually, the practice of yoga is a process of working towards a union between ourselves and every other living thing, between ourselves and a higher self or between ourselves and God. This is always a tricky subject to bring up in class due to the G word but in our tantric tradition the meaning of God is very different to a more traditional perspective. God is everything and we are part of that, so ultimately I am God and so are you.
This is no easy thing to wrap your head around, even when you’ve been studying and practicing yoga for 25 years. Trust me.
I think one of the most simple ways to do this is to think about community and connection with one another.
In the story where the God Ganesha gets him name we learn about the importance of our ‘tribe’.
Shiva needed a new leader for his army and the obvious choice was his handsome, strong, ripped son – Skanda. Not so much the chubby elephant headed one – Ganapati . But Shiva wanted to be fair and so he set a challenge to his two sons that whichever of them could run around the world three times and arrive back in from of his parents (Shiva and Parvati) first would become the leader of the army.
Skanda was off and zooming around before the words were even out of his fathers mouth. Ganapati however just took a seat in front of his parents and started eating some sweets. Shiva and Parvati were worried their eldest son would be ridiculed by all the other gods if he didn’t even make an effort, so they kept trying to encourage him to just try to do the challenge, while both knowing that there was no way he could beat his brother.
And then just as Skanda was about to dash back into the room, Ganapti stood up and walked around his parents three times before seating back in front of them.
As Skanda came into the room and saw what his brother had done, he knew he had lost the challenge. For Ganapti had taken the time to really consider the challenge and for him, his world was his parents. Ganapti showed thoughtfulness, a calm approach to a challenge and loyalty to his parents above all else.
Ganapti was named leader of the army and his name was changed to Ganesha. Ganas in sanskrit means tribe and Ganesha was now beloved leader of his fathers Ganas.
We all need a Ganas, a tribe, personally I’ve realised this recently more than ever as I struggle to come to terms with the surgery that is looming in the next few weeks and how I will need to lean on my tribe. Which is something that doesn’t totally come naturally to me. But connection is everything.
So with that in mind, please say hi to your fellow students as you arrive in class, maybe ask their name if you don’t already, get to know them a little better than just as the person who rolls a mat out beside you each week.
See you on the mat Gods and Goddesses.