In a very real sense, regardless of whether you devote conscious time to it or not, we are all practicing yogis. From the moment we are born, we begin the task of uniting our minds and bodies. An infant must first gain control of the body to accomplish the aspirations of the mind. In order for the mind to learn in our youth, the body must often be utilized to clear energy, create calm and build focus. As the mind grows, so does the body. It is often a challenge to balance the capabilities of both mental and physical through the formative years. These are our first lessons in balance, patience, loss of ego and acceptance of self.
Our Featured Namaste Yogini, Whitney Subryan believes yoga helps keep her body supple, thus improving her ability to execute her Shotokan katas. "Yoga has helped me with neck and spinal issues," Whitney explains. "Specifically, lengthening the spine provides relief I have not been able to achieve from anything else. Karate focuses on split second muscle tension and relaxation. Yoga is necessary to take care of and stretch out these muscles."
As we journey through our adult years, we realize the need to continue this harmonizing process: mind and body must continue to be exercised to stay strong and maintain optimal function. We continue to expand the strength and reach of both mind and body by using them. Through use, we continue to expand, gaining mental competency and physical prowess. AsKatty Janushas discovered, with these attributes come confidence, capability, and potential to open our minds and hearts further still.
"In an airplane, the instructions are clear that in case of an emergency, you have to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others" she recalls of a familiar analogy. "Before yoga, I'm sure I would have panicked and jumped to help others... risking my own health and not accomplishing my goal. After yoga, I know that to take care of others to my full potential, I have to take care of myself first, so I can do better for others."
This is the essence of yoga. It transcends time, space and even conscious intention. There may be varying descriptive terms, but we all seek harmony and balance. We aspire to expand, to learn and grow in thought and ability. As you begin, continue or expand your yoga practice, you acknowledge that time devoted to mindful focus of these intentions improves the quality of your life and your awareness of every aspect of it as well.
Perhaps rather than there being a time before yoga, there is a time before we awaken to learn everything has been yoga, and we expand in and through yoga forever after that. We'll look forward to exploring the possibility of "after" yoga with you another day.