I know, it can be weird. The first time I walked into a yoga school, I was filled with trepidation and reluctance. When I entered, no one was in the reception area, so I got a few seconds to take it all in. The smell of lavender, lots of beads, Namaste T-shirts, essential oils, candles, elephants (what’s with the elephants?), a book on chanting, and very quiet. Yep, all boxes checked.
And then she came into the lobby from the back and said, “Hey; how’s it going?” Oh, thank God; a real person. My shoulders dropped an inch. If she said something weird like, “Namaste; welcome to the most cliché yoga studio ever, where Americans overcompensate the gap between here and India. My name is Lotus Flower Om Shanti”, I would have left my body there, while the rest of me skidded out of the parking lot.
First obstacle cleared. I signed up.
Everyone’s different, so along the way, different things are different for each person. Here where three of mine and how I navigated them:
One: The whole Om-ing thing. “Oooommmmmmm …” What the? For a while, I just faked it. Enough of the others were doing it, so I just lip-synched. Then one day, I tried it. Not bad; hey, this feels good! Now, I look forward to it.
Two: “Namaste”. Wait … what? Namaste? Yep. It just seemed a little weird, like some secret password. It was way too early to start drinking the Kool-Aid, so again, I lip-synched. It’s quite possibly the most respectful and peaceful greeting on the planet, (Namaste means “I bow to the divine within you”), and, it still took me while to get comfortable with it.
Three: And probably my biggest obstacle was and in some cases, still is chanting. Any group, repeating the same thing in unison, scares the shit out of me. I get the feeling that someone is getting burned at the stake.
Through immersion, I’ve become comfortable with some of the well-known chants, like Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu (May this world be established with a sense of well-being and happiness). I mean, who can’t get on board with that?
But, others seem a bit too supernatural, like say, “Gayatri”. It addresses the solar deity, Savitri as depicted in Vedic scripture, petitioning for God’s blessings. Petition God? I believe it was Jim Morrison and The Doors that taught us, “You cannot petition the lord with prayer!”
Wait, I thought yoga wasn’t religious. It’s not. However, yeah … there are these mantras. Hmm.
Vedic texts and scripture, mantras, and chanting. Then the chakras, energy centers, crystals, vibrations, singing bowls, and …
It’s starting to get weird. I know. Hang on.
Yoga is not a belief system like religion, where practitioners must adopt those beliefs; Amen. Yoga is Dharmic, emphasizing knowledge and direct experience at an individual level, rather than an adherence to structured beliefs. Most Hindu and Vedic yoga practice, emphasize self-realization, rather than the worship of a god.
Your higher power, whatever that may be, is yours and so is your yoga practice, by the way. You don’t have to adopt the full Monty. What you feel comfortable with and when you feel comfortable with it, is up to you.
Enjoy the journey. It’s yours.
Om Shanti. Namaste. Cheers.