As I prepare to facilitate a week’s yoga retreat here in lovely Costa Rica, I thought I’d share what I wrote my participants in an attempt to communicate how I try and go about merging yoga, vacation, and people who don’t know each coming together. These are thoughts and principles I try and apply to all the classes and workshops I teach, hoping to encourage authentic participation with a gentle reminder that we need to be aware of all the perspectives we may be sharing space with.
Most dictionaries define yoga as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures widely practiced for health and relaxation. The word’s Sanskit root, “yuj”, means to join or yoke.
For most Western practitioners (including yours truly) yoga is a practical aid and NOT a religion. Sometimes an acknowledging of yoga’s Hindu roots in terms of references to Sanskrit, mantra, and or Hindu symbolism can happen during a yoga class (including yours truly) but I see this as a gesture of respect to the source of our practice, which is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. The continued practice of yoga will lead you to a sense of peace and well-being, and also a feeling of being at one with their environment.
Swami Vivevanaka’s visit and speech to the “Parliament of World’s Religions” during the 1893 World’s Fair is considered yoga’s first major introduction to the West. His message was about tolerance, harmony of religions, and universal love.
“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to the same truth.”
I want this to be the heart of a practice in a retreat“sangha”—the group where we create a mutually supportive community and understand and respect each others’ beliefs and opinions. To encourage discussions and sharing being meaningful and enriching, we must acknowledge the many different perspectives, traditions, and observances we each individually hold, practice, or honor.
Namaste, and Jai Bhagwam