If we look up ‘yoga’ in our dear friend Wikipedia, we learn that traditionally, the Sanskrit term ‘literally means to “yoke”. From a root yuj, yoga means to join, to unite, or to attach.’ There is sense of coming together. An interconnectedness. Of the body, mind and spirit. Of us with the Universe. Of us with one another. A sense of community and connection. Is this what you experience when you hit the mat at your favorite studio? Are we cultivating the connection that Patanjali described in his Yoga Sutras back in the day? Do you chat to the stranger a foot to your right on the mat next do you? Do you ask them how their day was? How their practice was? How they’re feeeling? Do you even make eye contact? What happened to the sunny-side-up, sweet yellow yoke of our dearest yoga? Has her amrita (yoga speak for nectar of the gods) oozed out, leaving her empty and causing all us modern day yogi’s to miss the point?
Yoga is designed to connect. To connect us to our hearts. To re-introduce us to how our bodies feel. The journey ripples out from center outwards and returns us back to center. It’s the connection, that keeps us connected. We’re good at practicing the connect inwards bit but get stuck when it comes to authentically connecting outwards. We spend our days “connecting” via text message on our iPhones, trolling on Facebook or tagging on Twitter. But none of this teaches us the art of listening. To ourselves. To others. We have begun to move at such a frenetic pace that we have grown uncomfortable to even hold eye contact for more than a glance. And though yoga is designed to counter the disconnect we’ve created in our everyday lives, our habits follow us into the practice room and onto our mats.
Have you ever found yourself using your mat as a safety net? A security blanket. A safe little rectangular sweet spot where you can just forget about the outer world. About your worries. Your troubles. The guy with the Nike tattoo sitting a foot to your right. We carry so much fear in our hearts. So much that the idea of speaking to a stranger, twists our insides.
It’s time to shake it up. It’s time to take our practice off the mat. It’s time to take yoga into the place that needs it most – out into the real world. And in doing so into our hearts. So go for it. Ask the girl in the red yoga shorts on the mat next to you (who you see week in and week out) what brings her back week after week? Who knows (after her initial shock that you speaking to her) you may discover commonalities in that simple connection, and perhaps also space and peace within your heart. You are not alone. Who knows – you both might, just maybe, even find it empowering.
Take it off your mat. Yoke. Unite. Re-connect. Smile at a stranger on the street. Make eye contact when you say ‘Thanks’ the next time you check out at the grocery store. Connect. Support. Transform.