Yoga beginners will often hear that the word yoga means union. It comes from a Sanskrit root meaning to join, or unite. Patanjali is often credited with giving the word it’s more spiritual or philosophical meaning, one which is often referenced in modern yoga studios and classes. But what does that really mean? If someone starts practicing yoga are they suddenly going to abandon their former identity and unite themselves with some strange or esoteric teachings from ancient India? Not really. While yoga can be a spiritual practice, it doesn’t have to be. The beauty of yoga practice is that you get from it what you seek. So people can have a yoga practice purely for the physical benefits, as a means of stress relief, or as a way to connect with their God. Whatever you are looking for, yoga will help you to experience a deep sense of union and connection with that aspect of yourself.
Body. Yoga invites us to get to know our bodies intimately. It introduces you to muscles you didn’t know you had, the day after an intense practice when everything is sore. Yoga teaches you the capacity of your lungs when doing pranayama. Yoga unites us with our bodies, and connects us to their constantly changing abilities. Sometimes it’s easy to kick up into a handstand, other times it takes multiple tries. There are days when Camel Pose feels incredible, and days you can barely lean back at all. Yoga has helped countless people to heal themselves physically, and to love their bodies more. The best way to unite yourself with your body is through regular practice, whether live or using a dvd.
Mind. If you’re new to yoga, you may find it strange to hear people referring to something called the “monkey mind.” This is a way of naming the mind’s tendency to be restless, jump around, and to be difficult to control. You’ll meet the monkey mind when you realize that instead of focusing on your asana practice or your meditation, instead you were making a grocery list. For many people, particularly those new to yoga and meditation, it can be disheartening to see just how difficult it can be to control the mind. But that knowledge is actually an important part of making the connection with our minds. We cannot embrace what we cannot see. Meditation is an especially good way to get to know the mind, and because Kundalini meditations make frequent use of mantras, pranayama, and asana, you will have multiple tools to help reign in your mind.
Emotions. So many people live their lives separate from their hearts, and aren’t aware of the deep emotions that may be hiding under the surface. Yoga gives us the opportunity to connect with our emotions, and to experience them more fully. It can sometimes be a little scary to confront our hurts, or anger, or fears. But it is only in getting to know them that we can heal our emotions and live from our hearts. There are so many kriyas and meditations in Kundalini yoga that can help to unite us with our hearts, and allow us to live our lives rooted in that connection. Try one of the wonderful meditations from Karan Khalsa and Ramdesh Kaur’s book Yoga and Mantras for a Whole Heart, or Guru Rattana’s Transitions to a Heart-Centered World to begin developing this connection.
Spirit. This aspect of yoga can be most difficult for people when starting out. Chanting words in foreign languages can feel uncomfortable. Images of elephant-headed deities or turbaned masters can seem mysterious or even threatening. But practicing yoga doesn’t mean that one has to become Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or anything else. Instead, yoga gives us the opportunity to strip away the layers of ego, and connect with our Sat Nam, our true identity. For some people, this could manifest in a feeling of connection to a divine figure, or to the world around them. For others, it could be an inner experience of peace and strength they didn’t know they possessed. Whatever the case may be, yoga offers us a chance to become beings of light and love, for ourselves and for the people around us.
Community. Even for people who find deep fulfillment in a private home practice, there is something so wonderful about connecting with the yoga community. Whether it’s through classes or kirtans at your local studio, events like Sat Nam Fest or Summer Solstice, or even online, joining together with like-minded people helps fuel your practice and expand your heart. As a bonus, yogis love to share smiles and hugs, even with strangers, so you never have to feel shy meeting new people.