What does it mean to be spiritual?
To me being spiritual does not equate to being religious or to even having any particular beliefs. The first definition of spiritual from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit”, and the first definition of spirit is “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms”.
It seems to me if we do practices with attention to how they affect our spirit, our vitality, our life-force (prana), these practices are spiritual.
Yoga Practice and Spirituality
Yoga, from its roots, is a spiritual practice. The first written reference to yoga comes from a spiritual text, the Rig Veda, dating back to at least 1500 – 1000 BCE, although some scholars believe prior to the text being written it was orally transmitted for possibly thousands of years.
Fast forward a few thousand years or so and yoga, in the west, became known predominantly as physical practices focused on flexibility and strength. There is a common misperception that one must be able to accomplish certain physical positions to be “good at” yoga. In the attempt to be physically “good at” yoga we can actually get in our own way and lose sight of what the practices can do for connecting to our spirit.
Yoga is by definition both a state of being and the practices one does to move closer toward that state. Yoga means yoke or union, and being in the state of yoga means to come into a state of union with our true nature (our spirit) – this can be experienced as a connection to divinity, to universal consciousness, a connection to everyone and everything in nature, or to a higher Self.
Whether or not our physical yoga practice is a spiritual practice really depends on intention and awareness.
What is your intention when you show up for your yoga practice?
As you move through your practice are you aware of how your practices are helping you to move towards a state of connection or a deeper understanding of yourself?
Does your yoga practice ever leave you feeling clearer and more able to experience more ease and joy?
Does the physical yoga practice help you to then be able to do the things that you feel called to do in the world?
Balancing Effort and Ease in Honor of Spirit
There are times when a more challenging physical practice is in line with a spiritual practice, particularly if you are working with love and acceptance of yourself and with care to use the physical practice to improve your overall health and wellness. What better way to honor and care for your spirit than to keep its “home” here on earth, your body, healthy and strong?
Likewise, we also want to bring in enough ease into our practice so that we don’t deplete our vitality (prana). Time in restorative postures, with breathwork, and in meditation can offer time for rest and healing, as well as the opportunity to feel deep connection to your own spirit.
What do you feel your spirit needs from your yoga practice? Are the practices you are doing in line with what you feel you need to honor your spirit? How might you develop an intention to help focus your practice on the needs of your spirit?
This upcoming month in my Slow Mindful Yoga classes we will be working on developing intention and cultivating discipline to practice in support of your intention. Hope to see you there!