Saturday, June 12, 2010
If there is one constant in my life, one ever-present entity that stays with me through every up and down, every twist and turn, it is yoga. The ability to exist in a state of union and harmony between breath and body, spirit and mind, intellect and emotion has proven to be the most profoundly beneficial tool in my toolbox, if you will, while riding the wave of my life. Yoga is not simply something I do on a mat for a few hours a week for exercise. While it may have started that way for me many years ago, I was given the invaluable gift of taking my practice deeper and integrating into every aspect of my life.
A few years ago I was so enamored of the practice I had developed, so committed to yoga and on a high from the myriad of positives that it had brought to my life that I decided to become a teacher. I managed to get five weeks away from work, which also meant five weeks away from my husband and essentially every other aspect of my life, to take up residence at an ashram and receive the ancient teachings that are as relevant as ever in this modern world and to move into deeper, more subtle levels of my own practice and along my spiritual path. It was a transformational experience. I'm pretty sure that it was also the real beginning of the end of my marriage.
Making a statement like that, some might ask why, if I know that yoga played a role in dissolving my marriage, did I not give it up or at least tone down the dial on the intensity. The answer is simple. While the sacred union of marriage is a supremely important one, the sacred union that has transpired within me and between me and the Divine (God, spirit, call it what you will) is the most important, essential union of all. C. never discouraged me from pursuing my passion. To the contrary, he was quite supportive, though it mystified him to a large degree and he couldn't quite relate. When I tried to share my passion with him in hopes of strengthening our bond, I only succeeded in pushing him away. Lesson #1: yogis must come to yoga through their own path and no two paths are the same.
In the months following my certification I went through a major transition in my life, struggling to find union between what felt like two completely disparate worlds. There was the world where I was known as Jess- wife, daughter, sister, friend, professional, etc.- and there was the world where I was known as Gauri- yoga teacher and student, spiritual pilgrim, devotee. I celebrated one of my best friend's birthdays in Las Vegas 100% alcohol free with mala beads in my pocket. I woke up at 5 a.m. daily to meditate, chant, read and then do my physical practice before turning on the computer for work and managing mine and C.'s social calendar. I was simultaneously overflowing with fullness and hollowed by emptiness. . . contradictory though it may sound, it is quite possible to feel.
Then C. left and yoga remained and the answers began to reveal themselves. There was no turning back from this path I'd begun walking down. My soul had been stirred and my connection to the Divine, my love of kirtan (chanting) and asanas (the physical yoga postures) were as natural to me as breathing. I'd been here before in another life, this was not new to me, and so I would stay the course faithfully. But the course is not necessarily a smooth, straight road. It is anything but! It twists and winds and is full of bumps and detours. In the true spirit of yoga I have found ways to integrate Jess and Gauri into one harmonious being, living in union in this body, breathing this breath. I practice daily but I don't get up at 5am to do it most days. I'm still moderate when it comes to partying, but I happily enjoy a glass or two of wine with friends, maybe a little more for a special occasion, and I don't feel bad about it. And I know very clearly that the next love of my life will be on his own spiritual path that will converge beautifully with mine so that we can live our yoga together.