stretching and health and calmness and creativity and peace

With all of the emphasis on “religion” these days and the emerging distinction between that slippery word’s meaning versus the concept of “spirituality”, I sometimes, as now, pause to consider my own lifelong trek toward self-knowledge.

For a very long time, since perhaps the early 1970s, I have practiced Iyengar yoga. Initially, as a dancer, I did it purely for fitness reasons. As I began to become more proficient, yoga also crossed the threshold into my consciousness as a spiritual feature. At times in my life Iyengar yoga has been in the forefront of my daily activities and at other times, it has slipped into the background.

I have always loved Iyengar because one can come to the practice of this type of yoga on a variety of levels and for equally as many reasons. It exists, on one level simply as a complete and balanced form of exercise. Yoga is wonderful for those who wish to address health issues, as well. Or one can take it up to seek a higher spiritual awareness. Or for any combination of personal aspirations.

The theory of the Iyengar method of teaching and practice renders basically it open to all. (I secretly liked it for “spiritual” reasons, as well, but could continue practicing under the pretext of fitness and be miraculously left alone and unaccosted by the usual aggressive religious recruiters). And it is considered to be the best variety of yoga: highly principled, demanding and result oriented. There are centers for Iyengar worldwide and it is well respected and practiced globally.

Now in my later life, I find that a gentle daily dose keeps my aging limbs and joints more lithe and allows me an hour or so to go more slowly and relax. Yoga makes me feel more energetic and happier. And it is in these moments and when I am otherwise exercising, that I feel as though I may perceive the messages of some form of divinity. Is it my extended breathing? My opened nervous system? The quiet of my body and the surrounding world?

Uh oh, you say. “Messages”? To which I respond, not voices, not words. Rather, if language could capture the experiential essence, perhaps one would say it is a sensation of general awareness / insight / perception; a clarity of sorts.

Nevertheless were it to be judged, I think mine is very likely a low level “spiritual” experience and I imagine that seasoned yogis would classify it as a elementary exercise in self-knowledge. To be quite honest, I truly am unpracticed and underdisciplined. Dabbler? Yet for me, the daily experience of stretching, breathing and being very quiet is calming, fortifying and provides the doorway to health, clear thinking, serenity and ultimately, to creative activity.

We do what we can.


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