Finding Light in Yoga
To talk about light, we also have to look a little bit at darkness. The two are forever intertwined: day goes with night, yin with yang, heads with tails, half full with half empty. Part of the human condition is to figure out how to handle these opposing forces so that we’re not overwhelmed by either. Our challenge is to find balance so that even if the pendulum begins to swing wildly, it still comes back to the centre eventually. So what do we do when there’s a gale-force wind blowing that poor little pendulum deep into the blackest hole?
It gives us the strength to rise up, individually and collectively, so that we can shine another day. Out of the swamp, the lotus blooms.
The Dark Side
In the months since the U.S. elections, many of us feel like we’ve been living under a dark cloud, even on the brightest of days. When you exchange pleasantries with someone, you feel the need to qualify even the most banal, meaningless conversational conventions.
‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine, except for this relentless sense of impending doom, tinged with a smattering of existential dread. How ‘bout you?’
By now, we’ve realised that we’re in for a long haul. It’s dark, it’s heavy, it threatens to drag us down. The path of least resistance leads to despair. So you have to take the path of most resistance. In times of extreme darkness, you have to double down on the things that bring the light: the humour, the absurdity, the uplift of the group protests, “Saturday Night Live”, the moment when that little missile enters the Death Star’s air shaft, facts that are not alternative, “Hamilton”, the collective inhale before the om.
We can’t just fall down and wallow in our misery. Ok, maybe a little, but it’s not a long-term solution. Pretty soon we have to get back on our feet. In order to stay vertical, we have to do the things that connect us to our bodies, to our spirits, and to each other. We have to find ways to spark joy and to tend that little flame.
Light in Yoga
Yoga and meditation help sustain the light by giving your busy, busy mind a rest from spinning out its doomsday scenario. It’s not checking out or burying your head in the sand to make time for yourself to take a break from yourself. You can’t exist in a constant state of outrage without soon yielding to despair, making you a less useful member of the resistance.
A vigorous, sweaty yoga practice acts as a much-needed release of the tension you may not even realise your body is carrying. A slower-paced stretching session relieves your muscles of the burden of stress. If you practice with others, you’ll be reminded that not everyone in the world has gone bat-shit crazy. If you practice alone, you’ll get a respite from dealing with other people at all. Whether it’s fast, slow, in class, or at home, practice, practice, practice, get those endorphins firing, and arise from Savasana feeling lighter in body and mind, prepared to gird your loins to continue to be the voice of reason in an unreasonable time.
Light and Love
As yogis, we use the word namaste a lot. We chant it at the end of class, we wear it on our t-shirts, we salute or sign off with it in our emails. The word is flexible enough to fit these myriad uses. One of the most common translations is “the light in me honours the light in you,” or, in social media speak, I see you. I recognise a fellow spirit, I acknowledge your humanity. I celebrate you and feel your reciprocation. In dark times, this little word is a reminder that there is light in me and light in you. There’s power in that connection. It gives us the strength to rise up, individually and collectively, so that we can shine another day. Out of the swamp, the lotus blooms.
Tell us what, or who, lightens up your World? A special song? That movie or book that always gets into your soul and lifts it up? That piece of graffiti you walk past every Wednesday? Penne arrabiata? The smile of a stranger? We’d love to hear about it…