Spirituality - The 'Be Nice' Religion
I often hear “I like yoga but I’m not interested in the spiritual side of the practice.”
Much like these students, I too had a lot of trepidation about going to my first yoga class. I started doing yoga at home on a VHS tape. The video was a Power Yoga tape that took a student through vigorous and varied sun salutations. There was no ‘spiritual aspect’.
I really didn’t know what would happen in a yoga class. I had heard somewhere that yoga was a religion? I didn’t want to do anything religious. I grew up as a Christian but had decided at a young age that religious worship was not for me and I moved away from ‘spirituality’ all together.
Still, I liked how the physical postures that I was practicing made me feel. So I kept doing them. Four years went by and I still hadn’t been to a yoga class. When I finally got the guts up to go I found myself seated in a room forty students. The teacher put her hands in a prayer position and everyone chanted OM. I burst into tears.This freaked me out but I couldn’t ignore this strangely liberating experience. So I kept going.
What does it mean to be spiritual? The more I read the philosophy of yoga the more I see that being spiritual within the context of this science, just means being nice to yourself, to others, and to your environment.
The meditative aspect of yoga allows us to see things for how they are. We become more accepting and compassionate of ourselves and others. We forgive and let go, living in the now — where anything is possible. We stop and breathe, reflect on our feelings, thoughts and actions. We find ways to be comfortable in our bodies even when it is challenging. We find ways to be accommodating and the strength to stand tall even on the windiest of days.
There are no temples in the science of yoga. Instead we draw out attention inward and study what is happening inside your body and mind. Yoga causes pause for reflection on who you are and how you interact with your surroundings. Being nice is a consequence of doing yoga. Being kind and being spiritual are one and the same.
When we check in with ourselves we are able to see imbalances in our bodies and in our behavior. Being ‘spiritual’ can be defined by your level of awareness to your own needs and to the needs of others. As awareness grows we can move in the direction of peace and harmony. Rejecting spirituality in the context of yoga is the rejection of kindness and compassion. I think we can all agree that being nice is good for us all regardless of religious background and irrelevant of whether or not you believe in a higher power.
It appears to me that there is a big difference between spirituality and religion. One can be spiritual and not belong to any specific religion, one can certainly be religious and not spiritual and a person could be both.
Take some time to explore stillness, to study yourself and all that you are. In doing so you are doing a great service to yourself, your family, friends and community. If we all try to be a little nicer, more compassionate and caring, the world would be a very different place.