Why I Practice Yoga
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that can seem rather esoteric and exotic, even scary, to Western ears. The translation of the word yoga is “to yoke up or join; union.” Rather than continue to speak Sanskrit, I will simply refer to yoga in its English translation “to join”—or simply joining. Using the word joining makes the meaning clearer. It also helps to clarify the intent behind the stretching, meditation, and breathing practices which are associated with yoga. They are means to joining.
The Yoga Sutras, attributed to a sage known as Patanjali from 450 AD, is the how-to manual on the practice of yoga. The Yoga Sutras commence by declaring, “Now begins the practice of yoga” (Sutra 1:1). As the text continues, Patanjali states that yoga is the release of the commentary of the mind. Then the seer abides in his or her True Nature. This commentary is released through practice and non-attachment. Any effort toward steadiness of mind is practice (Sutras 1:2, 1:3, 1:12, & 1:13).
So now begins the practice of joining. Joining is the release of the commentary of the mind. Then the seer abides in his or her True Nature. Said another way, as one releases the mental narrative, one resides in one’s True Nature.
What is our True Nature? We can only speculate. We don’t really know. We do have the testimony of saints and sages from many spiritual traditions, however. Here is what some of them had to say:
Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, chpt. 8)
Our soul sits in God in true rest and stands in God in true strength; it is naturally rooted in God in endless love . . . And in the end, all will be love. I understood this light of love in three ways. First, uncreated love; second, created love; third, given love. Uncreated love is God: created love is our soul in God; given love is virtue. (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chpts. 56 & 84)
The Lord of Love is the one Self of all. He is detached work, spiritual wisdom, and immortality. Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now. Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart. Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self. He is the source of love and may be known through love, but not through thought. He is the goal of life. Attain this goal! The shining Self dwells hidden in the heart. (The Mundaka Upanishad, part 2, v. 1:10 & v. 1-2)
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (New Testament, I John 4:16)
The very core of our essence is love, nothing else. Our core is perfect love, loving perfection. (Jayne Smith from her near-death experience account, retrieved from https://www.near-death.com/science/research/spirituality.html#a05)
The love of God is within us, but more important, we are in the love of God. All there is - is God. (Jan Price from her near-death experience account, retrieved from https://www.near-death.com/experiences/with-pets/jan-price.html)
I believe these folks when they say that God is Love and that our True Nature is Love, and I practice joining because it brings me peace. In each moment, in other words now, I can practice joining with my True Nature, the Love within me.
When I feel ashamed, now begins the practice of joining with the Love within me. When I feel afraid, now begins the practice of joining with the Love within me. When I feel frustrated and angry, now begins the practice of joining with the Love within me. When I am judging myself or others, resisting events or clinging to my shoulds, now begins the practice of joining with the Love within me. When I, or others, have not lived up to my expectations of perfection, now begins the practice of joining with the Love within me.
The practice of joining is accomplished by pausing to become aware, and then releasing the mental narrative that says that in some way, things should be different. As I join with the Love within me, I detach from the need for things to be like I think they should be—from a particular outcome—and rest in the knowledge that all is well. Centered in Love, I see each moment as an opportunity to make a myriad of life-giving choices, to be lost in admiration and joy, to be the presence of Love.
That is why I practice joining (yoga).