international day of yoga.
Today is International Day of Yoga. I know it feels like there's a day for everything now (especially considering today is also National Ride a Skateboard Day as well as National Selfie Day), but, biased as I might be, I think having yoga recognized and officially celebrated is pretty great.
Although I participated in the physical practice of yoga today (a few times), and I think it's absolutely incredible should anyone choose today to start their practice, I feel that part of celebrating this day is to focus on what yoga means as more than postures. I'll be honest, I sometimes forget that it's about way more than just going through the movements, getting stronger, challenging yourself physically. Especially in these last few weeks, I've been guilty of pushing my body physically. With no job to go to, it's been my outlet, my way to challenge myself, to show myself that I am still improving, growing - and the most tangible way to gauge that is through the physicality of the movement. But that's not necessarily the point of yoga. Although wonderful and beneficial for so many reasons, physical asana is just a small part of what yoga truly means.
I took two classes today. Although very different, they each focused on two separate principles of yoga - two principles that have been playing an increasingly important role in both my life and the world we live in today. The first is aparigraha, or non-attachment. The second is ahimsa, or non-violence. Diluting these two concepts down to just one word doesn't do either justice. There is so much behind these they'll probably each get their own post one of these days (get excited), but both resonated with me so much today it made me, for the first time in a while, really think back to why we practice yoga in the first place, and how we can use it to better ourselves and our lives.
The first concept - aparigraha - essentially means non-attachment. This concept has come up a few times during conversations with friends in recent days, and I think it's something that all of us struggle with at some point or another. Personally, this is a huge challenge for me day in and day out. Trying to stay unattached to the outcome of interviews, to stay unattached from relationships that might not be the healthiest, to stay unattached from the idea of who we are and what we should be at any given point in life. This feeling that I should be in a certain job, at a certain level, in a certain kind of relationship, in a certain kind of apartment is hard to detach from. It's how we are raised, what we're taught from social media, in conversation with friends. Expectations, which I've written about before, are constant, and they are overwhelming, so this concept of letting go of what isn't for you is crucial for our survival in today's society. To get through the disappointment, the heartbreak, the days that just don't seem to go our way, it's important to unattach, to recognize that some things just aren't meant to be, and thats ok. Just think how much happier we could be if we take the time to separate what's ours, and what's meant to be ours, from what isn't. To not internalize every let down. This was just what I needed this morning - the practice of yoga reminding me to let go of what's not mine, and to let go of ideas on what I think should be mine.
The second concept that came up during a class today is ahimsa, non-violence. Every year for the summer solstice the Times Square Alliance hosts a full day of free yoga classes in the middle of Times Square. I hate Times Square. I really do. I don't know if it's because I lived there for two years and am just sick of it or if I've finally turned into one of those cynical New Yorkers, but I really can't stand it. So, clearly, the only thing that would get me there is yoga. As you might recall, just a couple of weeks ago someone drove into the crowd gathered there, killing one and injuring many others. The irony of practicing yoga, a peaceful practice, in the same exact spot where this had occurred was not lost on any of us. Violence has seeped into our daily lives in a terrifying way. Look at London, Paris. Go on the internet, Facebook, there is hatred and anger everywhere. Violent words directed at every race, gender, sexual orientation, religion. Violent actions against innocent people occur constantly. This is not ok. And this is why we need yoga. Yes, I know that yoga will not fix the world, but I am hopeful that it could help. To be at peace with oneself is the first step to being at peace with others, and yoga teaches you how to do that. Yoga preaches non-violence and pacifism. It teaches you to love your body, your mind, yourself, and once you can do that you can spread that to others. Looking around during the class today I was beyond inspired by so many people of all ages, races, sizes, genders, backgrounds - all there to feel as if they are a part of something bigger, all there to connect in some way, whether it be to themselves or to others. At points during the class the teacher asked us to hold hands with our neighbor. And we did. And it was amazing. That feeling of love and joy and togetherness is so rare these days - turn on the news and listen to the current rhetoric surrounding literally everything and you'll see why. Despite my hatred of Times Square, I was proud to be there this morning. Proud to stand among so many amazing women and men. Proud to feel a part of something bigger than us all. Proud to gather in such a place, sending a metaphorical "fuck you" to anyone that might try to bring us down. We can all use a little ahimsa in our lives, with regards to both ourselves and others, amiright?
So, today, International Day of Yoga, is about so much more than just the practice. It's about love, and peace, and compassion. It's about treating ourselves better, treating others better. It's about challenging yourself physically, mentally, emotionally. It's about being the best version of yourself that you can be - or at least trying to. So, get on your mat, breathe deep, and just let go.