Many yogis struggle to have a connection to something that feels spiritual or to fuse the religion they were raised with to the foreign deities that yoga poses are named for and inspired by. For me, I never felt drawn to any religion, but I wanted something in my life that would inspire me, that would bring people together in a community, that would remind me to be filled with gratitude, compassion, and awe for the world around me, and that’s when I found yoga.
People often ask, is it crucial that you believe in some sort of spiritual teaching to practice yoga? In my opinion, it’s not crucial, it just depends on what you want to get out of your practice. For me, I’m not satisfied with simply moving my body and I love the deeper connection to my breath, to the spiritual and intellectual aspects of yoga. I have always been an avid learner and collector of ideas, and so I crave a practice that is a workout while providing a moment to explore concepts and philosophy.
If you see yourself as not at all spiritual, I invite you to consider this as you deepen your practice; when it comes to our place in the universe, we are a tiny spec in a vast expanse. That respect for the powerful world around us, the unknown, the mysterious and unexplainable, is what can unite us more deeply with ourselves. When we can recognize that we are in a unique position as the sole animal that decides the fate of all other animals on this planet and yet have little control over the happenings in our own lives, we come to a place of humble reverence for our true selves and for the beings surrounding us both small or large. It is truly miraculous to have been put on the planet and that is a scientific miracle as much as it may be a spiritual one.
If we can come to a place where we recognize our strengths and weaknesses, where we can acknowledge that we know so little about what’s happening in the world around us and even in our own bodies, we can be filled with gratitude, humility, and awe and that to me is the whole point of spiritual teachings. If you’re interested in taking your first step towards integrating some philosophy to your practice, I invite you to meditate, even if just for 5-10 minutes on how incredible your existence is… how very many things had to line up just so for you to be in existence and to be exactly where you are right now. If nothing else, this meditation will leave you humbled and filled with gratitude. The inspiration that comes from these practices is what makes me want to explore more deeply. I will never claim to be an expert in spiritual teachings, but for those of us with curious minds, it can be hugely fulfilling to explore deeper thoughts, infuse your life with greater meaning, and ultimately live a more connected and joyous life.
If you’re looking guidance, Udaya offers meditation classes. Try Mindfulness Meditation, led by my friend, Michelle.
By Anna Hanson