By Monica Tunnell, RMT, RYT
“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind.
Then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form.”
―Patañjali, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
In the Eastern world, the path through yoga has had a different road…the physical practice, or asana, a single limb of the practice, has always been one of the most minimalized portions, and meant to prepare the practitioner for the purpose of sitting in long periods of meditation where one can evolve and grow spiritually and connect with the Divine. Yet here in the Western World, yoga has taken a different approach…a focus on the physical has been placed first, or has taken priority to that of the deeper and spiritual pursuits of the other seven limbs. Despite this vastly different starting point for those who practice yoga in the West, I can say that it still serves as a window to the deeper, more esoterical practices that allow our souls to evolve and grow spiritually.
In my years as a yoga teacher as well as the producer of a yoga and music festival, I have seen one transformation after another as the result of a stumbling onto what one initially perceived as a physical practice meant to improve the condition of the body. It is always said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, and I have seen this countless times through the window of yoga. So many students have passed through my classes, and I am always deeply touched by those who are new to the practice, as it is delightful to witness their transformation from the very first class they attend to where they end up landing on their journey. People on all journeys, from all backgrounds, all ages, all religious faiths and all ability levels enter the yoga room with one commonality: they will be spending the duration of the class engaging in asana practice, sharing the breath and the energy of those who share the class and practice with them for that given period of time. Sharing that energy; that breath; that collective consciousness; combined together in a small space and time, is indeed powerful and in many cases a springboard to an experience or journey that is transformational in nature. Such is the power of the window of yoga.
Regardless of what one is going through, or the reason one attends a class for the first time, there is always a trigger that begs the student to delve into a deep exploration of something new. It could be an insight that comes during the pose, or perhaps a reading or poem, or a meditation shared at the end of the class, preparing the students for savasana, or deep relaxation. For another, it could be simply the community and camaraderie that is shared among the students of the class as one continues to attend. The sharing of those ideas among others who are also on a path of exploration can be profound, and often leads to the realization of the broad spectrum of options one has to explore. For others, it could just be the physical transcendence of boundaries previously created for or among themselves. Regardless of the trigger, the window will then open, and the student will inevitably grow.
At a time where our culture is spiritually hungry, but lacking enough outlets for that expression or experience, yoga can serve as a bridge to heal this gap…a safe platform for spiritual exploration that goes way beyond our traditional religious institutions. The spirituality of yoga is a refreshing encounter, for as with the physical practice, it meets you right where you are, encouraging exploration devoid of judgment and condemnation. Perhaps it is through traveling that bridge that one discovers a new and beneficial spiritual practice that can be applied to life, or perhaps it is simply that the exploration takes one back to a deeper connection with a faith foundation that has been challenged or impacted in a negative way. It is different for everyone, but transformational nonetheless.
It is challenging to find a community of likeminded, inquisitive spirits who are lacking judgment and open to discussing new ideas. Yoga builds a bridge of community that transcends both beliefs and borders. I watch it happen in studios, at events, on Facebook, on Twitter, and even in local communities in places such as coffee shops, health food stores, bookstores, and more. It is a beautiful site to behold…that community created by the connector of yoga. It creates a space for new friendships, new community, new explorations and unconditional love. It provides a vast support system throughout the globe that is accessible in a single click. It gives us the foundation with which to begin to build a new humanity, raising conscious vibration. The soul of a yoga community feeds the spirit and nourishes the collective consciousness, allowing seekers to springboard into life-changing endeavors of body, mind and soul. We are blessed to have such a window to climb through…a window that will lead each climber out into the vast and open space of uncharted lands and soulful.
Monica Tunnell, RMT, RYT is a Yoga Teacher, Usui Reiki Master Teacher, and Intuitive Counselor. She is the author of the book, Soulful Serendipity: Insightful Discoveries on the Path to Awareness. For more information, please visit her website at www.monicatunnell.org