By JEROME BURDI
Yoga is what connects us to our divine nature, the wellspring from which all our beauty comes. It aligns us with the natural flow and helps calm our racing minds so we can see things as they are, not as we’d like them to be.
The 2nd Century B.C. yoga sage Patanjali said yoga “chitta vritti nirodhah.” It ceases the chatter of the mind. Yoga turns the mind inside of itself, where the entire universe and all its secrets await to reveal themselves to us.
Yoga is not just the postures, as many in America have come to know it. The goal of the postures is to make us comfortable in our body so we can sit for long periods of time and meditate.
Art is yoga and that’s why many singers, painters, sculptors, dancers and the like turn to the ancient practice to help them master their lives and in turn, master their art.
"As the sculptor uses the chisel, the painter uses the brush and color, or a musician uses his instrument the yogi uses his own body to refine his inner intelligence," famed yogi B.K.S. Iyengar said.
Adesuwa, a jazz afro pop singer who lives between New York City and Atlanta, said her Bikram hot yoga practice helped free her as a musician more than her days as a gym rat ever did.
"I took the first [Bikram class] and I thought I was going to die," she said. "Afterwards I felt 'Oh, something is different'...It releases tensions and it makes your voice better. It gives you freedom."
The singer said yoga frees her from the care of what other people are thinking. And that helps her look inside and take risks in her art that she may not have taken otherwise.
This is because yoga works on you even in ways you don’t know. If you get into the asanas (postures) just for the exercise, your spiritual awareness will increase anyway and the meditation practice and lifestyle changes will come if you allow them to.
Yoga works the opposite way as well. If you get into it for spiritual reasons, physical strength and good health come as byproducts.
Yoga balances us where we need to be balanced. This is the wisdom built in to the ancient Indian practice.
Manhattan artist Elizabeth Knowles started practicing yoga about 25 years ago.
"The really wonderful thing is you learn over the years that yoga works on so many different levels," she said. "You look at your body not just as a vehicle for sport but a vehicle for how to live more effectively, more gracefully."
Knowles said after practicing the asanas she finds it easier, with a calm mind, to slip into her transcendental meditation practice. Yoga was key for her while going through life changes such as moving from New York to Miami years ago.
"The yoga centered me and allowed me to know that whatever happens is going to be what happens," she said. "It guided me and cradled me through different challenges. If I had just been exercising in the gym, I wouldn't have felt so nurtured by the universe."
That's because what is without is what is within. Yoga brings us back to our center to harness that life force that runs through all things. And it will never let us down, even when we think it has abandoned us.
As the Zen saying goes, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."
So be kind, drop your concern, pick up your yoga mat and let the meditation begin.
Jerome Burdi is a freelance writer, percussionist and yoga instructor. Find him at facebook.com/dhamma.bum.