Why Yoga?

Yoga matters to me, especially right now, not because it is something better than the other somethings. It is not the hobby to put all hobbies out of business. It is not the one true religion.

Yoga matters to me because it is what I have right now. In days past, I had Jesus. I had the words of Jesus, my sweet tattered Bible, and the Christian community (a tad unreliably but nonetheless,) surrounding me. Those days were imperfect but that study, the weekly and daily rituals (praying before meals, attending a service weekly, eventually spending hours in prayer and meditation), blessed me, and kept me from spinning my wheels in the mud of meaningless suffering. Now (praise ye the gods!), amidst hard financial and emotional times, I have the practice and study of Yoga.

I didn’t realize how much it has come to mean to me, and how much this ancient study/practice has blessed me until I was at a workshop in a neighboring town (holla at ya, Conway) yesterday, and heard a teacher talking about why she sticks to the more pure forms of yoga (the closer to Krishnamacharya–the better! was her angle). The impact it has on the mind. The connection to the Divine as the motivation behind it. The beautiful (albeit fundamentalist ;)) chants before and after each two-hour-long practice.

I realized as she spoke that if I did not have yoga right now, my little hands would feel awful empty. The presence of something on my palms–be it yoga or religion, study, or exercise–actually helps me open up to receive and release. Yoga, like the words of Jesus, draws out the Divine in me. These ancient prescriptions conjure up spells of light, love, and hope, and without spells, my days would be much darker. I shudder to think where I would have been without the words of Jesus nurturing my soul. This year, I have been to some dark places, and it is yoga that is helping me emerge.

At a Vinyasa (movement with the breath) class today, my Yoga teacher, Sherri, guided us through breath retention and some hella-difficult classes. After a brief savasana (corpse/resting pose), we engaged with her in listening to a song with repetitive lyrics in Sanksrit (holy language of ancient India/the yogis/inis). Singing along, I felt movement rise from my hips to my head and, in spirit as in body, I was at church again. Moving with the beautiful sound, we were alive together, plugged into source like blue Omaticaya Avatars seated, entranced, around Home Tree. Tears soaked my face as the words resonated with a magically unidentifiable part of my being:

Oh, my beloved
Kindness of the heart
Breath of life
I bow to you

And I’m coming home

Ong namo guru dev namo

Divine teacher
Beloved friend
I bow to you
Again and again

Lotus sitting on the water 
Beyond time and space 
This is your way 
This is your grace

Ong namo guru dev namo

Guru dev, guru dev namo

This is your way
This is your way
This is your way

(Bryan Kearney / Snatam Kaur / Thomas Barkawitz)

 

That is why yoga, for now. I am grateful for the teachers, preachers, and friends who create space that is safe and holy enough for the scared and lost parts of us to come home. Spaces that are big enough for tough emotions, and small enough for Love to fill, are resting places on the journey.

Praise be to Ganesh, remover of obstacles, praise be to Lord Shiva, inspiration of many asanas (yogic postures), praise be to Buddha, for being the Awakened One, and always, ever always, praise be to Jesus, for loving me first.

I’m coming home.

 

Grace & Peace,

 

Lydia Nomad Bush

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Tapa(s) That Mountain

 

Climbing Pinnacle Mountain today was difficult. Stomach problems made it painful internally but it was not even an *Arkansas* hot day. There was a breeze that accompanied me as I wheezed, heaved, & groaned my way up the East Summit.

Damn, I love that mountain.

Every bit of the experience was familiar to me (though I did not used to be this challenged on the way up…). The contours on boulders smoothed by hundreds of feet scaling them each week, the canopy of leaves overhead, the friendly faces who greet & cheer you on as you ascend & they descend the steep trail. I adore the crags on either side of the worn path. I love the coolness afforded by the vines and greenery all around. I love the feeling of my chest rising & falling at the summit as I gaze for miles & miles, soaking in the sherbet sunrise. I hear firecrackers, set off not far away & roll my eyes.

God, I love this place.

This walk triggers a plethora of memories. When I was a child the mountain seemed so long, the trek lest arduous but definitely more lengthy. During high school for a time I climbed the mountain weekly with a fierce group of young women. We explored the crags & swung off tree branches. It got easier for us every week, but never lost its’ lustrous challenge, it never stopped reminding us of the warrior-women within. None of us spoke out loud of how powerful it showed us to be, this weekly strength practice–we were taught to be docile & dainty–but I know we all felt it. And secretly shared it. If the other girls do not remember, then I will be guardian and remember-er, and secret keeper of these memories.

In yogic philosophy  there is an idea called “tapas”. According to Deborah Adele, Tapas is the fiery determined effort we can make to offer ourselves up to transformation, by way of strength training, meditation, or any other focused practice. Tapas is discipline, it is taking the difficult action because in your gut you know it is the right action. Tapas is the courage to step into the fire for the sake of being purified.

Pinnacle Mountain has been a place where I have cultivated Tapas. That summit has been & was again tonight the altar where I offer myself to God, to transformation, to my higher, truer, better self.

I love it. Oh, I love it very much.

Here’s to more cardio & less carbs.

Feel the holy burn, friends!

 

Lydia Nomad

Ida & Pingala

Ancient Tantric (Hindu) texts speak of Ida and Pingala, Ida being the left side of the body that represents the moon and feminine energy, while Pingala is the right side of the body and represents the sun and masculine energy. (St. Francis of the Christianity referred to the sun and moon as “Brother Sun”, and “Sister Moon”.) This is a gross simplification of the idea, but simple often does the trick.

Upcoming events in my life are causing me to reflect on some sweet and difficult memories from the past 5 years (give or take), and I like to use this idea of Ida & Pingala– energies of Brother Sun and Sister Moon–as a sift for reflecting on different kinds of moments.

Exhibiting or acting out of masculine energy has nothing to do with the state of being male. Just so, demonstrating moon or feminine qualities or behavior is unrelated to being female. These are energies of the spiritual world, beheld only from a spiritual posture, and the spiritual being knows not the polarities of gender (that we get caught up in physically).

The Ida moments of my life relate to times of rest, rejuvenation, renewal, and cleansing. Most nights over the past 5 years I spent alone, or in a house with people from whom I felt disconnected. Channeling my Ida energy, I often played a worship song, hymn, or lullaby on my phone, as I held it close to my breast and cried myself to sleep. It was Ida energy that brought a smile to my face the first time I held a brand new baby in my arms at the hospital. Ida energy has compelled me to stay in bed or in the back yard when culture’s roar of masculine hurry would have had me run my weekend away in the exhaust of traffic and retail stores. Ida energy is meditating and meditating again when anxiety resurfaces like acid in the throat. Ida energy is unhurried, balanced, and essential to thrive.

In vibrant contrast, Pingala speaks to high energy action, standing ground, pushing through challenges and rising in the face of insurmountable odds. Pingala is our energetic radiance, the wise channeling of muscular, robust energy (in balance with the rest and surrender of Ida). When I put my foot in the dirt and decided that I would take steps to spend my life with the man I love, no matter the wait required, I channeled Pingala. Placing copies of Bible passages to read at the end of each lap I swam in order to strengthen body and mind was fierce utilization of Pingala. This energy led me in discipline (Tapas, in yogic thought) when I started using a timer to create space between bites of food in order to liberate myself from eating to nourish a wounded soul instead of the body that could best tell me what to eat and how to eat it. Pingala energy is strong, creative, and ground-breaking.

The funny thing is, both energies piss people off. And a healthy balance of both? Prepare for boundary conflict, my friend. We often do not find ourselves worthy of one or the other, or we naturally gravitate towards cultivating one and neglecting the other. Unfortunately, when we deprive ourselves of one or the other, we often resent our neighbors for having a healthy balance, or for tipping towards our weaker side. Working with these energies, we may be judged, we may find ourselves sitting in judgment of others. Either way, they are ideas as gorgeous as Brother Sun and Sister Moon in the sky above us, integral parts of our Divine selves.

In remembering, I give thanks. In giving thanks, I remember Who I Am.

Love,

 

Lydia Nomad