Yoga means to unite. Its translation is "to come together and make whole." It asserts that everything and everyone is connected and that there is no separation between heaven and earth, matter and consciousness, mind and body, male and female or you and I. Yoga recognizes that we are all one, all divine. If it is understood that there is no separation between the mind and body, then everything you think, feel or experience will have an affect on your cellular tissue. Your body remembers everything, and your health is often a reflection of your attitudes and perspectives. Negative or shadow emotions like rage, fear, unresolved grief and jealousy manifest as tension when repressed. Tension, stress and anxiety affect the immune, hormonal and neurological systems and can leave you vulnerable to disease, illness and even depression. When you don't feel well, body or mind, you can more easily withdraw, get reactive and judgmental; all qualities that separate you from yourself and from each other. It is through yoga, spiritual practice and emotional processing skills that you are provided tools to help you understand and embrace your circumstances, emotions and life in a more holistic way.
Understanding your life's journey, its spiritual significance, and shifting your perceptions can move the physical and emotional tension and allow healing, insight and transcendence to occur. Every time you practice yoga, moving your body and synchronizing those movements with your breath, tension releases. Releasing the tension begins the process that allows you to feel and connect to your vulnerability. Vulnerability is what opens you to surrender, and it is only through this level of availability that you can truly know one other and God.
Twenty-four years of practicing yoga has taught me that God is truth and love and exists in every moment, both dark and light. This essence is in each experience and in all beings equally. Yoga has taught me that you are in a conscious body to learn what love is, not romantic love, although that may be part of your learning, but God-love, which is inclusive and infinite. In order to truly understand what this "love" is, part of the challenge of being human is that you will also have to experience and explore its opposite; what love is not. This process could take lifetimes. To truly understand the light, you must also understand the power and mystery of the shadow. It has taught me to embrace the shadow parts of myself—the ugly, shameful, scary and often repressed aspects—because without the wisdom the shadow provides, I cannot truly understand the power of your light, the depths of your beauty, nor your capacity for empathy. I cannot know, love or honor all parts of you unless I know, love and honor all parts of me.
Yoga teaches you that everything that happens to you in this life happens perfectly and synergistically in order for the soul to transform and understand this level of God-love. Everyone has karma to burn, lessons to learn, and each one of you will walk some challenging and funky paths at times, but these moments will also be the divine catalysts providing great insight, healing and wisdom.
It taught me that adopting a spiritual life doesn't mean I will be exempt from pain or loss. You will all get hurt, your hearts will get broken, and people you love will die. That's life. All your experiences can provide invaluable opportunities for growth if you stay open to seeing them from a new perspective. For each of you, there will be certain lessons that must be learned in order to open your heart to love and empathy. Some of the lessons will be elegant; some will bring you to our knees in devastation. They will all be necessary. The lessons yoga has taught