Merging fitness with spirituality

There seems to be a trend in the western culture with yoga for fitness. As much as I love to exercise and move my body I don’t totally flow with the idea of yoga for fitness. However, I know it works and I too often turn to yoga as my daily workout. I know, I am totally contradicting myself, but maybe that’s the point. To awaken the western culture that there is a balance between yoga as a physical workout and yoga as a spiritual practice.
Yoga in the western culture has grown tremendously in the last decade. Over 14.5 million Americans strap a yoga mat bag onto their arm and practice this beautiful ancient, flowing asana art. Many lives are transforming all because of the power behind asana. Hearts are awakening and people are rediscovering their true inner light all due to the simple act of moving from one posture to the next. People are practicing in gyms, studios and now with the internet they are able to take online classes. There is a number of growing resources available for this ancient art. It’s bringing the world back to balance. So whether we practice for fitness or we practice for mind/body/spirit connection, we are all eventually being guided to that ONE place, which is ONENESS.
I recently witnessed the power of this practice in one of my classes that I taught at a fitness club.
Twice a week, I enter a 2 plus million dollar fitness club where I am surrounded by bright lights, big muscles, lots of weight machines and loud pop music. The place is filled with all types of people and all types of bodies. Sometimes I get butterflies in my stomach because I worry that my approach to yoga is to spiritual for an environment like this. Sometimes my ego tells me I should be teaching only in a studio or teaching private lessons. However, I always seem to learn something new and beautiful about not only myself as a teacher, but all the shining beings who come to my classes there. They become my teachers because I open myself up to what they can potentially teach me. On some day’s I have 20 students and on others I have 4. It all depends on the weather.
When I first started there, I was approached by 2 women who demanded that I teach a power based yoga class. One in which they can build heat and sweat. I literally felt sweat pour from my armpits after they approached me so aggressively. Hmmm…I thought, should I just kick their asana next time or what!? And So I did! But in a good way…
From that day on, I have allowed myself to open up and not sweat when someone requests a type of class. On another note, I have seen my students open up so much that they too are open to trying different sequences and styles. They just let me do my thing as I so subtly kick their asana’s every week. I have found that since we have opened up to each other and allowed the balance between fitness and spirituality merge, they approach me at the end and thank me for a great class.
My heart filled up the other night after noticing how the group had subtly transformed in the last few weeks. I usually start the class in a seated position, where they sit and listen to their own breath. On that evening of subtle awakening, I changed it up a bit. Instead of starting them out sitting, I had them sit before savasana. After a few minutes I told them they could now lay back in savasana. I sat and waited to see if anyone was going into savasana. No one moved. Wow! So I sat with them and guided them towards their inner light. I guided them towards finding their own mantra and what it means to focus on a sacred sound. A couple of minutes later, I mentioned savasana and told them at anytime they could lay down on their backs. Still no movement. Just complete silence and peace continued to fill the room. Wow!
Finally, I had them awaken from their meditation because it was time to end class. As I closed the class with a divine namaste, they awoke and bowed. Everyone smiled as peace filled their hearts. Everyone was calm. Everyone felt the power of their own yoga. As a group we had transformed.
So there it is. The balance between approaching yoga as a fitness routine and yoga as spirituality. I honestly feel that with the right teacher, the gym is where people sometimes feel the safest in starting their yoga practice. I don’t think everyone feels it’s the safest, but I feel it’s a start. The western culture needs stimulation on a physical level and peace on a mental level. This is a place where yoga has the power to balance all of that.

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