Monday, March 15, 2010

The Coil; Moving Prayer

This post is part of 'The Coil' hosted by Greenspell every new and full moon- go check it out!

(please note, this post is a part of my personal journey. I feel all spiritual journeys are valid and beautiful as long as they are honest and healthy)
Spirituality. Funnily enough, it being 'THE' point of yoga, I don't talk much about it here. I think perhaps it has a lot to do with it being personal... and not really meshing with Yoga.

As an entry to 'The Coil', Greenspell has pointed out that New Moons equal New Beginnings, creativity and perhaps new adventures. I thought for this moon's entry I would share tidbits of a discussion I had last week regarding the 'point' of yoga.

I met with a local studio owner, Robert from The Yoga Loft. Robert is quite unique in that he has been a practitioner for over a decade and he has a PhD in Political Science, focus on Philosophy. His primary interest: the dichotomy between Eastern and Western Yogic Philosophy. This guy knows his stuff.

As Yoga begins to broaden, expand and take on a New Life in my world, this question of spirituality keeps popping into my brain.

Robert's take? Yoga is spiritual. It's our way to 'let-go' of all external and internal attachments, including our thoughts, so that we can connect with God. Everything else can easily become distraction or an attachment. For example, being attached to one discipline of yoga, one set sequence, one instructor etc. 

Seriously a wonderful conversation (over coffee!).

Most discourse around Yoga and spirituality is patriarchal in nature and often uses Hindu representations and allegories. God is always labeled in the masculine, represented in the masculine and goddesses, although present, are outnumbered by more prominent male gods. I can't relate. It feels fake.

Further, this concept of 'non-attachment', letting go of all in order to unite with the Divine, really doesn't fit with my view of spirituality. For myself, the Divine IS everything. My spiritual self doesn't exist as something 'other' or separate, but is a part of every thing and every one. It's how we make connections with our world, with our community and with our planet.

Truly, I have yet to attend or read a passage regarding spirituality and Yoga that easily fits into my view of the Goddess. 

Of course, this doesn't mean that Yoga is not spiritual for me. In fact, quite the opposite, Yoga has grown into how I communicate with my spiritual more. I like Seane Corn's explanation of 'moving prayer'. During class, this is dampened significantly as the language and discourse of traditional Yoga peaks in, but in my own practice... it takes on a new Light.

My sun salutations become experiences for grounding, for collecting and sending energy and for quiet introspection on all that I am grateful. Quiet musings to the Goddess during my practice, reconnecting with Nature outside my window.

This New Moon, I'd like to set aside these strange expectations of how I *must* mesh traditional Yoga spirituality and myself. Which I guess is a form of 'letting go'....

Blessings and happy New Moon!

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. First of all, thanks so much for participating in the blog. I'm still unsure whether or not it is a good idea, but I really do want to have a community place to talk about spiritual things (a place where one can be as personal, or impersonal as one wants - I'm somewhere in between), and a routine for the moon cycles, which I have yet to keep. I thought this would be fun.

    So thank you for taking the time to join in!

    Secondly, I remember you talking about this before. I think it's so interesting.

    For me, I feel pretty comfortable in Eastern spirituality/philosophy. I think of Tara and Kali and they are pretty darn powerful goddesses, so I feel "represented."

    As far as non-attachment goes, I go in and out of that constantly. You can always tell when I'm really struggling with something because I dive into Buddhist studies. I listen to Pema Chodron's lectures over and over. When things are sad or upsetting or depressing, it always makes me feel better to try to detach, to let go, and to learn more about those philosophies.

    YET, when I'm in a more sunny inner place, I'm far more interested in my goddess studies, and exploring that feeling you described of unity and connectedness and wholeness and...well, attachment.

    Even though there are some oppositional aspects to both philosophies, I find such comfort in both of them, at different times. Each one serves a need for me.

    Ultimately, I'm still trying to find a way to bridge it all, weave it all together.

    Anyway, excellent post!

  2. For me, yoga and my spiritual journey are intricately linked. Like you say, at a certain point, it just keeps popping into your brain.

    From my personal perspective there are 2 reasons for this:
    * The failure of modern rationalism to answer my deep questions & give me faith/insight/hope whatever you want to call it,
    * My own previous lack of a spiritual structure (never baptised, never been to church, lived in Catholic/Buddhist/Muslim countries...)

    In my opinion if you are OK with adopting a personalised approach to Yoga, then why not adopt your own approach to spirituality? There is no argument that says that everyone who does yoga should become a Hindu! In fact, that would be pretty un-yogic.

    Interestingly the Yoga Sutras refer very little to God (and to none of the Hindu deities) - my document search turned up only 3 mentions of the word "God" in more than 100 sutras. The Sutras are an inner journey of discovery - like a riddle, they provide clues but don't define the answers. In fact it reminds me of what you say in your post, it is more of a guideline for how to interact with your spirituality than a rigorous definition.

    On a broader note, I think every world religion has things to offer in my search for my own spiritualty. But I am lucky enough to be at liberty not to take them as doctrine.

    I think this is a brave and beautiful post, Eco Yogini.

    I'm interested though by the anthropomorphism of the divine: if the notion of "God" is patriarchal for women, would the notion of "Goddess" be equally unfair for the male half of the population? Or would it just be two words for the same idea?

  3. A Green Spell: you're welcome! I agree, I think that it's a fun concept. give it some time and you never know how many people will participate.

    I know that as I grow myself, I'll probably mellow out in all this, and hopefully find a way to be more comfortable with the different concepts. it's so interesting that you draw from each depending on where you are.

    La Gitane: I guess even while I read Devi's Sutras for women, I am still reminded that it was written more from a male perspective. I think shutting off my 'feminist' brain has been pretty difficult.... lol.

    you are right though, my thinking of Goddess isn't inclusive from a male perspective. it does work for me though :) I do like using non-gendered terms for spirituality.

    like 'a spiritual more' :) (thanks for the cue Dr. Jay, I think I just didn't explain the 'spiritual more' part enough... and since it was more a psych term, i figured it was just easier to follow your advice and change it :) )

  4. Beautiful post.

    For me, yoga right now is purely physical. I am engrossed in my anatomy studies and applying those studies to my students to heal their physical ailments. I am focused on finding ways to let my students feel some relief from sciatica, SI joint pain, tight hamstrings and shoulders. There is nothing spiritual in the classes that I teach and there isn't a whole lot of spirituality in the classes I take. And I like that. It suits me. I don't know a whole lot about yogic philosophy other than I feel uncomfortable most of the time with my lack of knowledge. Like I'm doing it wrong. That is why I really like this post.

    At the end of the day, what I do know about yoga is that it makes me happy, makes me a nicer person, and makes me feel so good.

  5. Hi Eco-Yo!
    How good for you to take on the challenge of verbalizing your experience with Yoga and Spirituality! Maybe you don't have to find a place in the already-established yoga philosophy to put your Goddess spirituality. I support your intention to allow your spirituality to be what it is. When words cross your path that resonate with you or help you grow, listen. And when words conflict with your inner sensibilities, let them go, but know that these same words might resonate with someone else. The spiritual path is personal; I recognize that what works for me is built from my experience, and is different than what some others vibe with.

    Like last night I did a 35 minutes long seated meditation facing a white wall with a local Zen group--probably not for everybody... And for me there were certain aspects of the ritual around the sitting that I didn't resonate with, but the meditation itself was still fortifying. The meditation calmed my inner beast, regardless of the total context which I only partially understood.

  6. This is very inspiring, and is making me think about the spiritual elements of my practice. I'm not sure I'm ready to write (because I'm not sure I even understand), but I think this thinking is a great exercise. Deepening the understanding of how the yoga benefits one in a very personal way.

    Cool. Food for thought, certainly.

  7. What a great blog, eco. I'm not surprised it has generated such a rich discussion.

    It was in a state of mind just like yours that I started writing "Yoga Demystified" a few years back. Originally it was just for my own benefit. I wanted to see if I could explain the spiritual power of Yoga to myself in plain English without the slightest use of specialized language or historical references--just what does it mean to me personally in my daily life?

    Before this it was sort of like you describe in your blog--some things attracted me and some things were uncomfortable. I knew Yoga was important in my life, but I wasn't sure where I really stood and what I could truly embrace.

    For me it worked. Yoga Demystified was originally titled "Yoga--My Personal Encounter", and, even though I eventually decided it might have some usefulness to other seekers, it remains a deeply personal account of my own answer to all the questions you ask in your wonderful sensitive blog.

    Bob Weisenberg

  8. I'm with Brenda. There's something spiritual about my practice, but I need to experience it for a while longer before I understand it enough to write it down! Love your thoughts on the subject.

  9. I'm glad to see Babs post because I was hesitant. I often think I am the only person who does not practice yoga for spiritual reasons (although I'm not even sure how that word is properly defined). I am not religious, nor do I consider myself "spritual". I do not believe in any gods, at least not any type of external controlling deity. I think we all have our own divine aspect, and so does the very earth we inhabit, but that's about as far as it goes for me. I am sometimes a bit uncomfortable with things such as altars in yoga studios. And yet, I do get a tremendous sense of calm and freedom from both practicing yoga and meditating. Maybe that's what some people mean by "spiritual"?

  10. Dear anonymous.

    No, you are not alone. First of all, a majority of people in the U.S. practice Yoga solely for it's physical benefits.

    But more startlingly, the issues you raise about spirituality were the very issues the original Yoga sages raised in ancient times. See my short blog "God or Reason--Does it Really Make Any Difference?"

    There have been many rough and tumble debates about what constitutes Yoga on the blogosphere, culminating in this Elephant Journal article:

    "First it Was Yobo, Now There is Ratra Yoga"

    It's a spoof of those who want think Yoga must be spiritual to be called Yoga.

    No, you are not alone. You're probably the majority. Yoga is for everyone in whatever way they want to practice it.

    Bob Weisenberg

  11. Did Robert mind/mention that you did not enjoy that yoga class you had with him?
    Made me curious! :)

  12. lovely blog, Eco Yogini! I think our spiritual paths are very individual and commend you for writing about yours, thank you :)

    Bob, thanks for sharing the beginnings of Yoga Demystified!


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