Sunday, February 3, 2013

Yoga is Love

It's February, and love is being mass-marketed everywhere you look. The internet is full of lists of things to do, meals to prepare, gifts to give, and words to say on Valentine's Day. February 14th is both hailed as a day to show someone you love just how much you care, and scorned as an overly commercialized invention with too much pressure for couples who are in love and too much anxiety for those who are not.

Wherever you land on that spectrum, it seems to me that devoting a day to the glorification of Love is a worthwhile endeavor. In fact, at the studio, I've declared that the entire month is all about Love. There are love songs on our playlists, heart opening poses in our classes, partner focused asanas, and even a workshop on the Heart Chakra. And guess what? You don't have to be "in love" with a single person to be constantly in Love.  In fact, broadening the idea of what constitutes love and how it might show up in our world might just open your heart in ways you never dreamed possible.

To me, Yoga is Love.  

The Greeks differentiated between 3 different types of love:  Eros, the intimate love between a couple, rife with sexual attraction and desire; Philos, the platonic love between two people who are friends or family members, and Agape, unconditional, all-encompassing, selfless, spiritual, even divine, Love.

Most of the love that we encounter in our modern world falls into the first two categories and most of it, even while it nourishes and sustains us, is characterized by need and desire. We crave connection to other people. We need them to provide affirmation, affection, support.  This is the human condition which is why it is so astonishing to encounter Agape.  Agape is reserved for Gods and Saints whose self-less embrace of all of humanity demonstrates a love beyond the ordinary. In our time, Mother Theresa and Ghandi stand out. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example, but we are all capable of this, and Yoga invites us to it.

At the heart of yoga is the idea that through the eight fold path, the lines between "you" and "I" dissolve. When we dive deep into our own consciousness and connect with our own soul, we also find the connection to divine consciousness, and we learn to recognize the same in every single being we encounter.  As Rumi so elequently puts it:

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. 
I'll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
each other
doesn't make any sense.

And the beauty of seeing the world through this lens (even if it only comes in glimpses) is that we might be able to live constantly and ecstatically in Love.  If I can remove my neediness and my desires, and understand that you are me, and I am you, then your joy becomes my joy, your happiness my happiness, your achievement my achievement, "every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you" (Song of Myself, Whitman).

There may never be greeting cards devoted to this kind of love, and it's unlikely that many of us will ever be able to completely live this way, but practicing yoga, dissolving the self through the physicality of asana, the stillness of meditation, the adherence to yamas and niyamas, might just give us a moment or two of clarity...and maybe, just maybe, those moment will grow longer and more sustained until they can resist the influences of the "I" culture in which we live. Can you dare to imagine a world where this is the norm?  

Let it begin by making February a meditation on just this kind of self-less Love.  Become like the Sun in the poem below by Hafiz. Love without restraint or expectation,  and let all of creation become your Valentine.

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

"You owe me."

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.


Happy Valentine"s Day!

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