Namaste, and mean it>
words by Willis Johnston
Being gay has helped me understand the meaning of yoga.
To me, at its core essence, yoga is the cultivation of a peaceful life through navigating and existing in one’s truth while also connecting to others with the deep understanding that all beings everywhere spring forth from the same spark of divinity. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means “to yoke”. Therefore, yoga is the joining together of the mind, body, and spirit. The practice of yoga, in many ways, can be an ascetic or reclusive practice, limiting itself to self-discipline and self-study. In my opinion, this approach to the practice does not go far enough and can actually lead to narcissism, self-righteousness and separation. Yoga is a call to ACTION. It asks us to arrive in our lives, community, and planet with a mission to serve and connect with our fellow beings. It pleads us to peel back layers of difference to know better the light that connects us all—to really know Namaste (“The light and Spirit within me salutes the light and Spirit within you.”) and mean it when we say it. This is easier said than done…especially in 2018. It is entirely too easy to focus on ways in which we are different. It is addicting to scream our stances in a demeaning and angry manner. It is difficult to connect with others and find commonality through the understanding that we all, at our essence, are bearers of the same light. This is the work of yoga.
Growing up gay in Oklahoma and going through a pretty intense coming out process with my family and some friends allowed me to understand this concept. I came to realize that screaming doesn’t work. It exhausts the spirit. I discovered that assuming the worst of someone or a group of people only leads to more suffering. Although at the time I didn’t realize it, this process turned out to be the greatest training in yoga I have ever had. It taught me that despite our differences we all yearn to understand one another. It revealed to me there is an avenue of commonality, love and light that can be found in even the darkest or fieriest moments of dissonance.
June is Gay Pride month. Festivals and colorful displays of community are happening all over the place. Whether you can claim a letter in the acronym LGBTQ or not, let it be a reminder that there is beauty in connection, community and understanding. There is growth in stepping outside of our comfort zones and asking ourselves where we are disconnecting. There is svadhyaya, the yogic principle of self-study, in the investigation of how we can use our yoga practice to yoke ourselves, our light, to all beings everywhere. More importantly, what resources does our practice provide us with when faced with moments of passionate dissension? My hope for all beings this month is that we take a good hard look at the ways we can come to know Namaste on a more profound level.
I hope to get the chance to connect with you on my Yoga + Salsa retreat April 2-7, 2019, in CUBA! We will share special moments on and off the mat as we learn about an island rich in history and culture. We will celebrate community and service and be reminders to each other of the light that lives in all beings everywhere.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu:
‘May all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.