Nearing the end of four months of travel that has taken me on a round-the-world extravaganza from Australia to Bali, Peru, Greece and back to Bali, and included seven weeks of intensive yoga trainings, four weeks working with plant medicine, two weeks of teaching retreats, countless hours of meditation, and fabulous adventures into the inner and outer cosmos, I somehow impossibly found myself at a loss for what write. Overloaded with exquisite experience and insights, everything has been wanting to spill onto the page all at once. And in the bottleneck, nothing could come out. Searching for an answer to writer’s block, and desperately wanting something to share with you all, I realized I needed to go back to basics, back to the building blocks…
So here it is: The A to Z of Yoga.
Over the next 26 weeks, I will be offering some of my personal insights into yoga, Sesame Street style. As with any great journey, expect some of the unexpected – and of course some old favorites. If anything, I hope you will be delighted, informed, and inspired to continue your own journey of yoga as a fearless adventurer, a pioneer into the frontier of the incredibly unique experience that is you.
A is for Awakening
It is no mistake that this is where we start on the journey of yoga. This is the point. It is the start of it all, and hopefully, where we ‘arrive’.
Since the beginnings of yoga sometime around the 5th century BC, somewhere around the Indus valley, yoga has been a quest for awakening. Call it self-discovery, enlightenment, liberation, the unfolding of consciousness, the journey to the heart – yoga is the path of awakening the self to the Self. This Self is the undeniable experience of oneness, of love, of bliss, that is the fabric of existence underlying our ‘everyday’ reality.
Now, if we were following the modern interpretation of yoga, we probably should have started with A is for Asana. But the fact is, asana is only one teeny little tool in the colossal toolkit that is yoga. And, believe it or not, it is not even essential…
What we know as yoga today is really a collection of practices, techniques, ideas and philosophies developed over many centuries by those who sought this ‘true’ experience of Self. Through searching, experiencing and discovering, these seers and sages were able to create a kind of map of practices and their results, to help guide the rest of us hungry wayfarers towards happiness, liberation and awakening. But let’s be clear: there are so many different paths, practices, conflicting ideas, and possible experiences on the journey, that to label any one thing ‘Yoga’ is to miss the point entirely.
So remember this: there are many ways to climb a mountain. Most important is that you know where you are headed, and that you take the first step.
But to think that awakening is something that you get only at the end of the journey, after much hard work and discipline, is also misleading: surprisingly and paradoxically, awakening can be gradual or it can be spontaneous. And it is a wholly unique experience for each person. What we are doing when we ‘practice yoga’ is not forging our way to awakening: it is only clearing away the debris for the river to flow – but when the rains come is not up to us.
Hungry for more?
Grab yourself a copy of “Wake Up Now” by Stephen Bodian, and/or “The Enlightenment Process” by Judith Blackstone… and…
Here are a few more A-words to add to your yoga lexicon. Let these words take you down the rabbit hole of your own research, exploration, and contemplation:
A is for: Authenticity, Ananda, Awareness, Arjuna, Ahimsa