“Why put an article about Yoga in a real estate magazine?”
(This article originally appeared in IbiCASAmagazine in 2007)
by Nora Belton
There is nothing so basic in life as a house, a home. A solid structure that provides protection and comfort. We lovingly take care of it, make it beautiful, and it is our refuge, the place we wake up in and come back to every day. Human beings reside in houses. And the human soul resides in the human body. The physical body is our home, our temple. A seeker once asked a Master, “Which is that temple that I can go to and worship?” and the Master said, “This very body is the best temple, is the highest temple of God.”
Everything we experience in life somehow takes place through the physical body. We “know” with our bodies, our minds and our hearts. The Asanas, the postures we practice in Yoga, “speak” to every level of our being. Yoga is the practice for our time. It is at once medicine, support, guideline and refuge. It releases, strengthens and comforts.
Yoga’s popularity today is testimony of its agelessness. And I believe that there is no “right” or “wrong” yoga, only “effective” and “less effective” yoga. As the Dalai Lama profoundly stated, “Every country has its favorite cheese.” So there is a Yoga practice that suits every temperament. I always recommend that people “yoga shop” until they find a teacher and a style that feels right. In Ibiza that’s easy…on an island renowned for fostering individuality, no two teachers are alike.
Ancient texts like Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita describe all the “how’s and why’s” of yoga, the “do’s and don’ts”. Interpretations can be strict or loose, but the only life-style that risks clashing with Yoga is an unhealthy one. Ultimately one is drawn to choose between the “all-nighters” and the detoxifying efficiency of their Yoga practice.
Yoga is a complete science, but every part of the whole carries the seed of that wholeness. Whatever branch of Yoga you choose to embrace, be it Karma Yoga for the active or service-oriented type, Bhakti for those who function from the heart, or Jnana for the intellectual type, all roads lead to Rome, as it were. So although there is an abundance of literature on Yoga philosophy, you don’t have to be a book worm to imbibe the teachings. Devotional chanting (a favourite of mine), opens the heart. But you needn’t be musically inclined. Being able to meditate is described as the ultimate goal of the physical harmony that results from the Hatha Yoga practice, but you can start wherever you want, “a”, “b”, “c”, or “all of the above”. My teacher and Guru for many years, GurumayiChidvilasananda says, “If you can’t do all the practices, choose one that you enjoy and do it daily, with devotion, and it will bear fruit.”
The lessons and the benefits are inherent in the practice itself. A gentle clearing takes place on mental, emotional and physical levels. It’s a kind of alchemy. Some effects are immediate; I’ve often begun a session in a foul mood, and ended in bliss. Other effects are slower to come, but enduring. Either way, it feels like magic.
SPIRITUALITY AND PHILOSOPHY
In order to have a spiritual outlook you don’t have to be physically fit, but for me, the process of realizing my physical potential is a spiritual one. Yoga philosophy teaches us to see God in everyone and everything; it helps us to find and recognize the Self; to honour the Self; and it gives us tools and understanding to be “in the world”, how to manage one’s life, duty and responsibilities with compassion, tolerance and efficiency, to fight one’s own “righteous war” as referred to in the Bhagavad Gita; to experience peace in a tumultuous world, and to be happy. The warrior described in the famous battle epic is a happy one.
Hatha Yoga practice develops a sense of freedom within a physical body that epitomizes our state of being “bound” by a material existence. We come to recognize and appreciate how the elements of nature work through us and within us. The session or Yoga class flows to a rhythm of activity and passivity, movement and rest, imitating the pulse of life itself.
The practice of Hatha Yoga represents the effort and the will that ultimately reunites us with the part of ourselves that is eternal. It is the form that leads to the formless.
Through my practice I have had glimpses of a higher consciousness, and something ineffable that always encourages me to be “in the world but not of it”. With time, Yoga has evolved in my life from being a familiar and intelligent form of physical exercise to a permanent connection with a sense of self-respect and wonder.
Yoga Teacher Trainer