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I probably read about what the word yoga means so many times that if I spend my next two lifetimes without being reminded of it, I will probably still remember it on the third one.
What all the translations and definitions of yoga have in common is the “bringing together” and the “uniting force” aspect of it.
I heard that from day one of my yoga teacher training in the early 2000s, and in every single training and class I took since then.
I also read about it in the so many yoga books I collected over the years.
But none of that repetition or accumulation of material wisdom meant anything meaningful to me until that day in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, when I took a look around at the many people who had just finished class with me and while I felt something hard to describe. A glow of a special kind.
I saw people coming together. I felt camaraderie. I saw one of the most special relationships being born. The relationship that each of us can cultivate with an ancient practice that will stay with us till our last breath, while nourishing and reminding us that there is absolutely nothing in this world that this practice can’t help us with.
That yoga studio became a place of connection. A classroom for humanity.
And it has been like that ever since that day and until COVID-19.
Of course, after the initial wave of panic regarding this global pandemic, we had to deal with the leftovers of yoga as we knew it before Covid.
And for many of us, this came with the difficult realization that our physical space was no longer a safe one. And being close to each other no longer helped us to co-regulate each other but in fact, it put us in harm’s way.
Change is never easy. And it rarely knocks on your door gently. And yet, this practice—like a stubborn, little weed—grew unexpectedly in between pavement cracks, blossoming on our screens across the globe while bringing hope and a sense of belonging to many.
While during one of the most difficult times of our lives, addiction, racism, domestic violence, mental health challenges, conspiracy theories, divisiveness, and so much more were on the rise, this practice penetrated the homes of so many people who, until now, were untouched by it. In fact, they were excluded from it. Intimidated by it.
On a regular basis, I receive emails from students from all around the world whom I haven’t met in person. And they reflect on the power of connection. On the excitement of having a regular yoga practice, which is something that they never thought they could have. In some instances, the crude realization is, if it weren’t for this newly born practice, the reality they are experiencing now could be much grimmer.
The particular circumstances we are living in made it possible for many to understand what others have been experiencing for a while now: this practice offers refuge and solace.
Of course, there are many who miss the in-person interaction, the warmth of other fellow practitioners, and the routine of going to a real yoga studio. And hopefully, this will come back one day soon. But I can’t help but to feel hopeful for the so many more who, if it weren’t from this particular play of cards, wouldn’t have known about yoga.
Yoga matters now more than ever. And what yoga stands for matters today more than ever.
We might be apart. We might not be able to practice together, but the feeling of togetherness is more present than ever before.
Perhaps, in a way that we might not understand at this moment, yoga has, once again, surprised us all.
I really hope so.