Yoga and Freedom

Ekambaranathar Temple, Tamil Nadu

Happy Day-After-Independence-Day. In yoga we often speak about freedom — creating a sense of freedom in the body by releasing tension and stiffness, or accessing freedom of the spirit by letting go of unnecessary attachments to the push and pull of everyday life. On a national level right now it would seem that freedoms are being reduced by a minority opinion that wants to impose their beliefs on all of the rest of us. This can be infuriating and demoralizing, but we must keep hope. The word for hope in Sanskrit has a beautiful sound: asha. In the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, the Pandava brothers who represent dharma and the force for good are continually beaten down, over and over again for years until they have no choice but to fight for their rights. We may have lost a battle, but the war is not over. Practicing yoga is a way that I fortify myself, building strength and stamina for the long haul, and it works. Having war in one sentence and then yoga in the next seems a bit counter-intuitive. Even though yoga is a path of peace and compassion, it does not mean we become lap dogs or sheep — as much as I love a Downward Facing Dog! This practice helps us to get clear inside ourselves so that we can bring that clarity into the world. Practicing yoga together creates a community so that we know we are not alone as we stand up for what we believe.