The modern, industrial West is in the throes of a growing fascination with the ancient practice of yoga. On our yoga mats, we can bridge the precipice between old and new realities as we explore new spiritual territory.
According to The United States Yoga Federation, there are 22 million Americans currently practicing yoga. Additionally, in 2012 a Pew Research Center poll revealed that one-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research.
As dwindling church attendance points to a common and growing dissolution with faith and the edifices that traditionally expound it, we have found religion incompatible with science and replaced faith with reason. We have declared ourselves too modern to experience spirituality, and we have made ourselves a post-everything people.
We have declared a void, and to fill the void, yoga has entered mainstream American culture at precisely the same moment Americans have exited their traditional religious traditions.
We are experiencing a re-evaluation and a refocusing of spiritual practice on highly individual terms.
While yoga has a religious base in Hinduism, it is not a religious movement in the contemporary West.
Instead, it is experienced on secular terms as a path to a new spiritualism, through which we are rebuilding our individual and collective spiritual landscape and language. We are altering the traditions of the past as we gain a new consciousness.
Yoga has an incredibly wide appeal.
It is a slimming exercise and a calming balm to anxiety, it is appropriate for all age groups and widely available. We can easily modify it to suit our needs as it meets us where we are, both physically and emotionally. It delivers a great stretch, and it only becomes more interesting as we move beyond the physical stretch and into the deeper spiritual stretch.
This is when we glimpse the greater thing within.
One of the main points to a good yoga practice is the meditative state achieved through the series of poses. A good yoga class will not only ignite the muscles, it will also ignite the mind. By the time the yogi enters the last pose, the rest pose called savasana, the mind should be clear and open to assimilating the insight gained through the practice.
We begin seeking through yoga because it is our nature to seek, and we find that the denial of the spiritual simply leads us back to the spiritual because we must honor that part of the self.
We ride our yoga mats beyond the dualistic world of the five senses to reacquaint ourselves with the wholeness of our true spiritual nature.
Our yoga mats provide the foundation we need to rewrite our fractured and disparate mythologies into forms we can carry forward into the future.
As we lay on our yoga mats upon the broken pieces of our former totems, we stretch, and as we move beyond the stretch to a new understanding of our mythologies, we end up rediscovering the quiet spirit at the core.
We move beyond the fragments and beyond modernity to meet the greater self, the eternal and inherent spiritual source within that has been waiting for us all along.
Yoga Goes Mainstream In U.S. CBS News. (Feb 19, 2004)