Now, I am not looking to answer this question – especially in a single blog posting, BUT I would like to pose a few of my own…

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Let’s start off with the fact that Yoga seems to be everywhere these days and endorsed by any and everyone. People have changed the way they speak, and refer to their higher power as the Supreme Absolute – when they are already followers of another religion. Yoga is all the rage along with other disciplines like Holistic medicine (which I have tried and really liked!) and after delving a bit deeper into, linked to a practitioner. They come in two forms; a Homeopath who is concerned mainly with the physical functions of the body and a Naturopath who offers direct guidance on all things physical and spiritual in your life. There are also the poses in Yoga like Shavasana which is described by some as the Corpse or Final Resting pose. This feels symbolic of something, like perhaps a ceremony of some kind, but in any case, symbolic. We then have Downward Dog, which in some cultures would be considered an insulting pose to put a person into…but I may be over thinking it on this one, wanted to mention it in any case. I will also mention the Cobra pose, which is quite a fascinating and strength building pose that I have enjoyed trying out. I will also say that the snake is a widely popular symbol in various religions and cultures around the world. And can we get a little crazier with all of this and finally add Child’s Pose to the mix? I won’t say much beyond the fact that it and the bending forward pose we do right before “folding” is QUITE reminiscent of bowing down to something. I will leave the rest to your inquiring minds.

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I get it that everyone from a big star, to your next door neighbour, to your very own Mother practice Yoga and enjoy the benefits of it – without denouncing their own faith or accepting any new one. At the same time, however, I wonder if there is any symbolism attached to the practice of Yoga and whether people are informed of what that symbolism entails. I, personally, care what words come out of my mouth (except when I’m really p****d off 😉 ) and WOULD like to know if the pose I am in or the words I am saying or the philosophy I am listening to is attached to any bigger concept or idea? The reason for this is that I want to know if that bigger concept or idea conflict with my own belief system. The problem here could be that I do not know enough or am not involved enough in my own faith and through a new regime of health and fitness, change my basic ideologies, without knowing.

And, celebrities and public figures do a great job of making it look like light hearted fun – which, in all fairness probably is for them and most others who follow it! The intention of the student is not up for debate here, quite the opposite. The underlying question I am asking here is if people are doing exactly what they INTEND to do when stepping onto a yoga mat? Speaking of yoga mats – there are some religions that utilise prayer mats in order to worship their higher power, which could bring into debate a whole other element to this saga. And what better time than this to bring my very own friend / expert on many things Yoga, who is a teacher at Hot Yoga Wellness Buttonville.

I am also willing to put my money where my mouth is, and bring into this discussion the perspective of the very person who introduced me to Yoga. Her name is Jordan Chong, and she is quite simply a beautiful person on the inside and out. I wanted to put her in the hot seat, despite her good graces, as she is always pretty amazing at answering my questions on anything and everything. Here goes:

I’M GONNA CUT RIGHT TO THE CHASE…DO YOU CONSIDER YOGA TO BE A RELIGION?

That’s like asking about the egg before the chicken or the chicken before the egg theory. In western culture, unfortunately, it can be commercialised or more of a fad. But, for lots of people like myself it is a lifestyle. That’s like arguing that fitness is a religion or fashion is a religion. Yoga, essentially, is a holistic approach to lifestyle.

Jordan Chong
Toronto based Yoga Instructor, Jordan Chong

I think the question you should be asking is “What isn’t Yoga?” Like, when you stand in line naturally impatiently, why is it so unnatural to be patient and breathe deeply? I think a big misconception is that a lot of people think that yoga is only accessible to the fit. It should  be thought of as accessible to all demographics like those with disabilities, seniors, athletes, firemen, and so on. Who doesn’t need a moment to sit and reflect and stare at themselves hard in the mirror?

Jordan also shared that the use of rubber yoga mats are a western “accessory” that was incorporated into the practice of yoga. She says that natural fabric mats were used originally since the birth of Yoga by its’ founding fathers and to this day in other parts of the world. And although she herself teaches Hot Yoga, Jordan has also shared that it is also a product of western civilisation and not practised by the traditional eastern practitioners in India. It must be a product of the northern hemisphere…and rightfully so if you ask me!

Now, maybe I am being dramatic or a bit over the top with my inquisitions but I only became interested in this particular topic because I was introduced to yoga three months ago. Did I enjoy it? I absolutely did. Did I benefit from it physiologically? I can point to a couple of indications of the answer “yes”. But, I was paying attention. I pay attention to a lot of things that I do nowadays, and especially in the last few years as my life has taken a huge turn and changed drastically in that time period. I couldn’t even get past sealing my practice with the greeting “Namaste” as I was not there to embrace a new theological or spiritual regime, but to get in shape, relax and dog gone it, a bit more flexible if possible! I was always under the impression that “Namaste” meant “Peace be with you” or something to that effect. When I enquired with other Yogi’s as to its’ meaning, however, I was told a variety of things, including that it is an acknowledgement of the divine spirit in one another. Hmmm. This is exactly what I am talking about – my faith does not acknowledge divinity in any being other than God, so you could understand why I wouldn’t be able to get past the simple word “Namaste”. In fact, and much to the chagrin of my peers I would seal my personal practice with the saying for “Peace be with you” in my faith, which is “Salam”. It was more a case of “until further notice” on my part, as I was brand spanking new to the practice of Yoga and DESPERATELY trying to find means and methods of getting in shape.

My focus was to learn the poses and build enough strength to get through an entire class without lying down on my mat. I did, and to this day feel good about that. What I am not as sure about is the bigger picture the practice of yoga entails.

I was chatting with an instructor after class one day, and cannot remember for the life of me which she was saying I was – of the three categories of people and their physical breakdowns. I do remember asking her if there was any mysticism involved in the physiological theory she was describing to me, and her response was:

“Oh, I don’t care about that side of it.”

Again, I say hmmm…she also teaches a Yin class, and if I am not mistaken is an acknowledged and widespread philosophy in the world.

Hey, to each his own, according to my beliefs we as human beings are given the gift of free will and no man has the right to take that away from another. THAT being said, I am glad my eyes are open enough to both listen and ask, because when I do, I am given more insight into what is going on around me. This allows me to be better equipped to make informed decisions about how I want to conduct myself and my life.

I will end with the lyrics from the mind blowing tune below…

Like a soul without a mind, and a body without a heart, I’m missing every part…

And if you like that, give this tune a click!

Just some of my personal faves from back in the day 🙂

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