“Let people know that you teach spiritual yoga,” someone said to me this summer. We were in the absolute quiet of a forest in Northern Quebec, on a windless day. I was so surprised I almost fell off the log I was sitting on.
Years ago I consciously excised that word spiritual from my teaching vocabulary. It felt problematic because of its associations (other-wordly, transcendent, religious, things like that), & didn’t seem to jive with what I was presenting: yoga as a practice that teaches us to be grounded & capable in life, while we become more open energetically, more capable of true insight into the nature of life’s subtle mysteries.
So I stopped referring to yoga as a spiritual practice or path, at least in public. I introduced phrases like path of expanding consciousness, or practices that deepen or refine our awareness. These are great terms (I did not invent them, by the way), and are really accurate from a certain perspective. But in that moment in the forest, when I heard my friend say you should let it be known that you teach spiritual yoga, I suddenly felt like I had been sidestepping an important issue through my choice of words. It was an awkward moment for me inside, with the sense that I haven’t been doing my job quite right.
So I have thought about it, and I want to make it clear: Yoga is a spiritual practice. What I mean by that has zero to do with transcendence, other-wordliness, or even seriousness; what I mean has everything to do with getting more intimate with that element of ourselves (shall we call it the spiritual?) that animates and integrates, heals us & allows us to appreciate beauty in many forms.
This fall, I am looking forward to bringing a whole symphony of words back into my teaching, and to seeing what happens as a result. I hope to see you! There is so much to explore, always more to experience and understand.
Wishing you well, Robin