The Real Yoga —It’s About Staying Right Here

He had this overwhelming aroma.

Not smelly, or BO or anything, but a powerful rose scent. I found it an odd contrast to smell something so light and delicate emanating from a tall, broad-shouldered man.

He clutched an army issue duffle in classic military green, complete with last name stitched across the top. Mala beads encircled his wrist and a scarf draped loosely around his neck.

“So what’s your story?” I asked him.

“Well, I moved here about a year ago and I’m just doing my thing. I’m just on the path to ascend. I teach yoga —yoga’s my thing— and I invite people into my space who are ready to do that work.”

He went on like that, drifting off to describe what he offers. We shared a teacher’s desire to assist others. We talked about how everyone teaches differently, and that benefits students.

Later that night I thought (and wished I’d asked) to where is he trying to ascend?

By all definitions I am considered a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

What I mean by that is I feel a lot. I have more sensitivity or reactivity to loud noises, to harsh environments. I have a rich, complex and deep inner world and can be moved to tears by sunlight on a mountain or by the smell of an old pine forest.

I feel a lot. My feeling is dynamic and adaptable. I even feel what the yoga world would call the energetic body, or pranamaya kosha.

So all this new-age talk about “energy” or the “light body” or even the chakras, well I feel all those things too. I’m not downplaying the sensitivity and openness of this gentle man.

But unlike him, I’m not trying to ascend to another realm, above or beyond this one, despite my sensitivity (from which I did try, for decades, to escape).

Yoga, for me, is about staying right here.

Once upon a time, yoga saw the world, the body, the things of physical substance as problematic. The practice, then, became about renouncing the world in search of something more mystical or esoteric.

As yoga evolved, it became a practice of recognizing the mystical within the mundane.

Instead of only one person, or guru, having the knowledge of how to live a balanced and happy life, the guru was known to exist in each of us.

Instead of retreating from the world, the practice became about how to live in the world more fully.

Instead of bypassing the mud and muck of human life, the practice became about finding balance and joy within the discomfort of being human.

Instead of seeking the light as an otherworldly spirit, to which we need to ascend, the practice became about unearthing the light of knowledge that is already within, right here and right now.

The real yoga, isn’t about spiritually bypassing or an escape disguised as enlightenment. It isn’t even about touching your toes (even thought that feels really good!).

The real yoga is this:

  • can you stay close to your own vulnerability?
  • can you have an open mind and loving heart toward the person(s) who’ve hurt you?
  • can you make peace with your aging body?
  • can you find beauty and joy with your eyes open, present in this world?
  • can you see the luminous inner guru instead of living in self-doubt?

Yoga is right here, closer than you think…