I was born a yogi, and so were you, though most of us need help to remember when mind and body were one. The experience faded as we grew.
According to my mother, I was the type of child who could not stay still. I explored everything with my body. I put things in my mouth. I wriggled around in dirt. I climbed trees and hung upside down from branches. Once, around the age of seven, I scrambled to a neighbor's rooftop, causing my mother (and our neighbor) great distress.
By the time I was ten or eleven years old, I had developed quite a talent for molding and moving my body in ways that mimicked my surroundings. I was convinced that I knew exactly how it felt to be a tree, a rock, a worm, a brook.
My family wasn't particularly religious. Our attendance at the nearby Presbyterian church was irregular. When we did go, I enjoyed sitting in the balcony, visualizing myself leaping, monkey-like, from railing to chandelier. I could feel, in my body, the joy and excitement of swinging over the head of our stern minister. I could capture the thrill of swinging through a jungle canopy even while sitting quietly in church!
One day, while swinging on my backyard swing, sprouting wings and becoming a bird, I heard a whisper coming from somewhere inside. "My body is my temple," it said. I heard it over and over in my mind. That evening I explained to my mother that my body was my church and, I reasoned, I no longer had to be a part of a congregation. Puzzled and exhausted, my mother simply stared at me in silence. But, from that day forward I was no longer subject to the scratchy crinoline or pointy-toed patent leather shoes that were the foundation of dressing my "Sunday best." My Sunday mornings were henceforth spent barefoot in a nearby stream or perched in the crook of a friendly oak tree.
The reverence I felt in nature became a spiritual template for the rest of my life. To this day, when I practice yoga, I allow myself to embody the mountain, the tree, the eagle, the cat and the playful downward-facing dog. Every yoga pose has an essence, typically expressed in the name of the pose, that can be experienced in the body and the mind simultaneously.
The beauty of yoga, as I see it, is that it provides a foundation for self-awareness, creativity and spiritual development. Asanas offer a blueprint for how to build a strong body and supple mind that combine to become a "temple" for a life of reverence and awe. From the smallest particle of dust to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, Creation holds vast mysteries. You are at once the microscope and the telescope. Whether looking deeply within or expanding into boundlessness, the art and science of yoga offers clarity of vision and purpose.
Yoga can help you break free of intellectual conditioning and risk feeling the fool for the higher purpose of coming to know yourself. You are a divine creation. Your existence is a golden braid of body, mind, and spirit woven into the fabric of the Great Mystery.
Yoga means union. Step onto a yoga mat with an intention to unite mind and body. Spirit will arise. Step off your mat and bring your spirit creatively into the world. You will come to know your place in the cosmos. You will begin to understand, deep within your bones that you are one with all that is. You will no longer look into the eyes of another without seeing a reflection of yourself. You will no longer feel separate from the air you breathe or the ground on which you walk. You will know every expression of life. And you will be free.
~ Namaste ~
(Excerpted from my book, You Don't Have to Stand on Your Head: creating an inspired life through yoga. Inner Reaches Press, 2009.)