Say “God” in a yoga room – much less any other room – and you may well lose half your class. Figuratively and even literally. The notion of God is tangled mercilessly in the web of religion. The image of a man in the sky with a long white beard ruling over humanity with staff in hand may come to mind when the G-word is dropped. Many of us were raised religious; some of us were even provided quite a patriarchal network painted as religion. Religion aside, though, God is a word often skirted around for fear of the ensuing implications. My yoga teacher Seane Corn has the greatest definition of God. It is, “that which exists within that is of truth and love.” Who could argue with that, right?
God, by this definition, exists within us all. God is whatever and whomever we, as individuals, deem proper. You could be drawn to the word “God,” or perhaps Divine Mother, cosmic consciousness, the Universe, higher Self or the powers that be resonate more deeply with you. The point is, God is me as God is you as God is everyone. We are all part of the Divine fabric, intricately woven threads each endowed with our own, marvelous sprinkling of Grace. Our expressions of spirituality are different, our prayers different, our vibration different. This is how it is meant to be! There have been wars waged over religion; unfathomable blood shed over what God is or isn’t. It’s devastating to consider, especially when the truth (as far as I see it) is no one man or woman is more Godly than another. We are all Godly. It’s just a matter of how, or if, we choose to express it.
How does one go about expressing God in day-to-day life? Kindness. Compassion. Love. Generosity. Gratitude. Just to name a few. While cathedrals and chapels and shrines are stunning, we needn’t go to such trouble to express our devotion on a moment-to-moment basis. We are Divine expressions of God in and of ourselves! Our bodies are our temples. Our breath and movement is our prayer. Our very existence is an expression of devotion and, with mindfulness and commitment to Self and other, we have the capacity to fortify the unification of humanity.
I am a yoga teacher and soul activist who is deeply spiritual and open about my faith in Grace, the Divine and intangible cosmic beauty. On this path, I have been faced repeatedly with the judgment that yoga is a religion. I was even told recently that all yogis are “going to hell” because they fancy themselves “above God.” What the what? First of all, the ancient system of yoga originated in India. It is a multi-layered practice, and asana is only one limb. Yoga is not a religion. Hinduism and Buddhism are the two most well known religions associated with the yoga practice, but they are completely separate.
It’s important to differentiate between spirituality and religion. Religion is the subscription to a specific dogma. “A particular system of faith or worship,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. On the other hand, spirituality is less a practice and more an embodiment. It is defined as “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things; not concerned with material values of pursuits.” Quite different, yes? I will definitely admit there are some grey areas. A religious person can be deeply spiritual. But, on the contrary, there are countless spiritual beings who are not religious in the slightest. So one must be mindful of how one does differentiate, if discussing religion and spirituality. Especially when yoga is involved in the conversation!
Spirit is where we all came from. The Divine essence of existence. The pulse of the Universe. The rhythms of nature and the cosmos, the steady thread of unchanging bliss. My guru, Mynx Inatsugu, taught me what our “true nature” actually is. We are not the bodies we live in. We are not the minds we have in our heads. We are not the titles and various identities we accumulate throughout our lives. Because all of these are changing. Our bodies grow and age, our minds learn and change, our identifications come and go. The one steady constant we have had since coming into this life is the simple thread of awareness we were born with. It is unchanging. It is unaffected by weight, height, intelligence, memory, success or failure. It is the sweet nectar of our very being. It is our own personal dose of Spirit.
Spirit comes from the Latin root “spiritus” meaning “breath.” As yogis, and as human beings, everything comes back to the breath. Breath is life. Breath is prana; life force; sacred energy. Without the breath, we cannot survive. Similarly, without Spirit, we cannot survive. We can live completely disconnected from Spirit, in denial of it, or completely oblivious to it…but it will persist. It is threaded into our very spiritual matrix. We are vessels of Divinity. We are conduits of Grace. We are Gods and Goddesses in the flesh. We can argue it all we want, but we are vibrational beings of light living human lives on this sweet little planet. We come from the stars; we are literally made of stardust. The human restrictions of flesh and thought cannot contain us; we are inconceivably more than anything any human mind could even process. What power that offers, right? We all have this inherent capacity to “be good and do good,” by birthright. We are all cut of the same cloth.
It’s really easy to identify and cling to the changeable nature of things. Money, possessions, politics, relationships. It’s practically impossible not to cling to these things, at least some of the time. But the real problem lies in the belief in duality. The belief that you are different than I am. The belief that what I’m doing is wrong and what you’re doing is right. Seane Corn says that all things happen exactly as they’re meant to “so as for our souls to transform.” We are on a journey, all of us. We are here to grow, expand, transform and learn. We are here to spread love and be love but, most of all, we are here to remember how to love. We are here to teach each other. We are here to spend every single day practicing the art of seeing God in one another, of practicing compassion and kindness, to our Selves and to others. We are here with a great responsibility to the very magic of which we are comprised…to recognize the power that lies within, to never forget it, and to stand in awe of the great gift we have been given. You are God, you are Spirit and you are perfect – absolutely perfect – just by breathing.