You are sitting on your yoga mat in Sukhasana, easy pose, with your feet crossed at the ankles and your hands resting gently on your knees. Eyes closed, you begin to draw your attention inward. “Focus on your breathing,” your yoga teacher tells you. You breathe in, and breathe out. Before you know it, you are able to observe your mind, and may even notice that hint of peace and serenity you are longing for.
This learned ability to find center, focus, and clarity is the basic idea of meditation, which is the yogic pathway to samadhi, or self-awareness. It is taught that the more we can allow the chatter of the world to fall away during periods of self-study and meditation, the better we become at learning to center the mind and focus on the nature of our true self. But what does this mean, exactly? Are we really supposed to only think about ourselves?
Bring yourself back to that moment on your yoga mat. Observe yourself from a distance and begin to imagine other yoga students in the room with you. Each one is having a similar experience. They are experiencing their own thoughts, peacefulness, and self-awareness. The prana circulating in each individual yoga student becomes energy that interacts with all the other energies in the room. Before you have even become aware of it, all of the yoga students are connected in a common thread of breath-control and centeredness.
Just like there is no “I” in team, there is no room for the ego in yoga. The word ‘yoga’ itself means ‘union.’ This can be interpreted as the union between the strength, balance, and flexibility required to practice the asanas. But more importantly, it is meant to describe the union between your precious being and all the beings of the universe.
Think about the ability and effort it took to make yoga a part of your life. Initially, it may have required some life changes. First, you had to make an investment in the studio in which you wanted to practice. You had to purchase a yoga mat (or pay to rent one) and some stretchy black yoga pants that weren’t see-through. Your body had to adapt, too, maybe shedding extra pounds or building muscle strength in order to get better at the postures. And as yoga became a bigger part of your life, you may have learned that breath control, diet, and time for morning meditation are just as important as making it to class.
At first, the life change was all about you. Maybe it still is. And that’s okay.
But as you advance in your practice and study of yoga, you will find that the more time, energy, and effort placed in attaining self-awareness will ultimately make you more compassionate, mindful, and aware of others around you. Soon, you will begin to notice how your actions, no matter how small, have a great impact on other beings in this world.
With each breath, you can bring a smile to brighten someone’s day. Each word will harbor kindness to soften the heart of others. Taking your practice off the mat, you will discover that there is no “I” in yoga.