As I return from retreat with my teacher Paul Muller-Ortega, I am even more committed to this slogan: Live Your Yoga. I’ve had this as my tagline for many years, and what it means to me keeps changing, as my practice and life continue to transform in a multiplicity of ways.
I began my yoga practice in a rigorous hatha yoga lineage, which in may ways was fortunate, for it taught me a lot about the nature of practice in general, the path of inward turning, and the existence of an abiding Self. “Live your yoga” in this context demanded a rigorous, dedicated, diligent effort, while at the same time releasing expectations for particular results. The practice required an inward focus on the breath, and as I watched my mind in that practice, I discovered there was some part of myself that was steady, consistent, and unchanging, even in the midst of the wild undulations I was putting my body through.
Nonetheless I yearned for something more that I couldn’t quite articulate. I felt uncomfortable with a sense of austere asceticism, so when I learned of a more tantric based system of hatha yoga, I was drawn to explore it more and more. The philosophy that everything is an embodiment of the divine, with an emphasis on becoming aware of, and celebrating that innate divinity was extremely enticing. I appreciated the sense that the body itself is divine, rather than something to be controlled. My body appreciated an asana practice with greater variety, and the clear ways of aligning my body allowed me to heal a back injury that had been debilitating.
I deeply resonated with a philosophy of intrinsic goodness and the idea that life was a gift to be celebrated. It was at this point in my practice that the “live your yoga,” tagline was formulated, as I was immersing myself in myth and tantric philosophy, and using these teachings as a metaphor for how to live life as a householder yogi. Yet eventually that practice, too, left me feeling like something was missing, a certain grounding and abiding stability. It felt increasingly shallow, and I missed the discipline and focus, and inward turning that I had experienced in my earlier years of practice.
So I started meditating. The discipline I had learned early on serves me well: I get on my cushion twice daily, no matter what I feel like or what comes up in the course of the practice. I’ve learned that the deep withdrawal into the heart of my Self can feed my life on the surface. I see how both these streams of yoga come together to form a beautiful pulse in my life.
On a daily basis through my meditation and other practices, I follow the stream deep within to the stable abiding Source, which benevolently brings greater clarity and alignment. Then this connection helps steer me as I ride the outward current into my householder life, manifesting more creatively and efficaciously as I move through each day. Now I know I need both the inward moving current and the outward manifesting current to fully live my yoga.