Apple pie, baseball, yoga?
The foundations and core values of Yoga are about as American as you can get. Let’s look at 3 states Yoga and the roots of American ideology have in common.
1. Unity- The commonly accepted translation of the word “yoga” (Sanskrit) is “union.” More precisely, but not exact, is that “yoga” comes from the root, “yuj,” meaning “to yoke,” or “to join.” Further, just like in American philosophy, yoga doesn’t say that unity means we are the same. No indeed. It’s our diversity that brings carries the beauty. A common theme in many yogic traditions is unity in diversity. (been to a House of Blues lately?)
2. Indivisibility- As a school girl learning The Pledge, I imagined “indivisibility” to mean “you can get invisible.” This made all the sense in the world to me. If America was all about justice and equality, no one could become invisible. Everyone would have a voice. Of course, my life and times have shown me this is not the case and that indivisibility means something similar to interconnected. Yoga teaches that apparent separations are actually just illusions. We may seem to have great chasms between us, yet something (or no– thing) connects us. The pursuit of that connection, that unifying factor, is tantamount to the journey of yoga.
3. Freedom- The goal of yoga is kaivalya (Sanskrit), meaning “freedom.” I won’t forget this one because I got it wrong on one of my teacher’s training tests. I not-so-cleverly answered the question something like: “everyone’s goals in yoga are different and there are no real goals.” Wrong. The classical system of yoga posits that the practice can release the practitioner from the illusory attachments that cause suffering.
In the beginning of this piece, I purposely referred to the founding concepts of America as an “ideology.” This is because, like Yoga, the philosophy of America is an alive practice. The sustenance of values requires constant dedication. In yoga, a practitioner can reach a certain stage of mastery in, say, backbends. Should that practitioner cease to practice backbends for even several months (or an entire maternity leave;) she will have to recondition her body and mind to reach that same level of mastery again. Likewise with Americans.
Freedom is not guaranteed by paper documents. Freedom is a democratic practice that requires ALL OF US to engage. No wonder 30 million+ Americans are embracing the practice!
How do you engage youth in these core American and yogic values?