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Spirituality by Erica Barton

February 03, 2014 at 9:53 AM



When I think of spirituality, I think of connection. There are myriad ways to feel connected, but there are some that lead to a more profound experience. Of course, one of the ways in which I feel most connected is when I’m moving in my body: feeling the rhythm of my breath reverberate in my chest, or a cool wind brushing hair across my face. In these moments I feel as though I’m riding the same wavelength as the entire Universe, as though my heart beats with the core of the earth. But in the moment that I look up from my movement, my breath, my excitement or even my struggles, I feel utterly connected to humankind. To feel human is humbling, but it is a profound and deep connection that binds all of us who move within the Universe. To be human is to be inextricably linked to those around us, close and far. 

One of the best metaphors for this experience is of course, in the yoga studio, and it doesn’t stem from an easy or relaxed pose. It does stem from Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior II. I have had a newly kindled relationship with this pose for the first time in my practice. I haven’t always enjoyed the pose, because it doesn’t always feel good in my body, like Anjaneyasana, or low lunge does. If I’ve gone skiing or biking the day before, or if the sequence has involved a strong flow or many standing poses leading up to Warrior II, my legs can start to tremble, my inner thighs burn, and sweat permeates my temples. If it’s bad enough I’ll start to think about catching snowflakes on my tongue or if I really want lentils again for dinner… anything to be away from the discomfort. But I’ve realized that if I stop taking myself so seriously and smile, soften my shoulders, or even lift my gaze, the struggle becomes much less significant. Virabhadrasana II has a big lessen to offer. 

By softening in a moment of great strength, we find that by engaging fully, it becomes easier to open. Of course, there still might be a struggle in Warrior II pose, even with a smile, but the pose can show you that you are strong. By holding the pose, even with trembling thighs and shivering arms, you demonstrate your amazing strength. In the yoga studio, lifting the gaze or inviting awareness of the fellow students practicing around you can act as a gentle reminder that every other person in the room is experiencing the same pose that you are. Again, your struggle seems minimized upon looking up- not in judgment, but in camaraderie. In life, by looking up, by raising our awareness to those around us, we can shift our perspective to that of connection. It can be important to take yourself less seriously- a smile can be as powerful at changing experience on the mat as it can off, and a reminder that you’re only human can lift weight from your shoulders. 

That very humanity is what connects us to each other, in adversity and happiness, and in each bittersweet moment of existence. My struggle may be great to me, but my neighbor is probably struggling too. If I never look up to see him or her, my struggle will feel like the biggest struggle in the world, and I’ll feel alone, because struggle can be relative. In the second that I look up from myself to truly see, hear, and feel the people around me, I feel connected. Connection is life. To be mindful that the people around me experience the same weather, see the same sky that I do, breathe the same air, brings me closer to my humanity. As this happens, my heart space expands and I feel intimately and organically connected to the Earth and all of the beings that inhabit it, and my spirit becomes nourished by the profound connection.