Yoga as Transcendence
I first came to yoga when I was 23, in my first year of university, after being out of high school for four years. It was my second semester and I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed over exams and deadlines and trying to figure out what it was I wanted to major in at university. I started in Psychology, moved to English, then Philosophy and, finally, Religious Studies. I ended up with a double major in Philosophy and Religious Studies, two degrees that matched perfectly with my purpose, although I did not know that at the time. After all, I was a 23-year-old recently made single, young girl, lost in a city with an identity I couldn’t comprehend. Now over 10 years later, as a 36-year-old, married, mother of two boys and yoga instructor/aspiring studio owner, I have embarked upon a new journey with its own set of surprises…and disappointments, but mostly surprises.
My first experience with yoga was Kundalini and, although I now teach Vinyasa flow, Kundalini is where I first caught a glimpse of what I had been looking for: purpose, love, strength and courage; transcendence from the mundane, commercialism of our society, and our emotions, or at least our need to control everything that comes into our life. I learned a lot about myself and the world in those six years I was in university and I learned even more through my five years of Kundalini yoga practice.
I have experienced transcendence through yoga in a number of ways. My first experience of transcendence was actual, literal transcendence, i.e., “referred to, but beyond, direct apprehension; outside consciousness; moving beyond human comprehension.” Our instructor had put the class into a guided meditation and as pure unity of breath and mindset we floated into another realm. It was both frightening and beautiful, unlike anything I have ever experienced. When the time came for us to open our eyes together, you could tell from the powerful silence that we had all just experienced something completely out of the ordinary, something magical and wonderful and frightening and beautiful. We sat with each other for a few minutes, in that beautiful silence, until we had all internalized what we had just experienced, together, for the first time and, for me, the only time. But, wow, it was something you do not forget. That is when I found my heart’s desire—yoga would always be a part of my life and guide me in my choices, my decisions, my character.
I have also experienced transcendence through yoga in a more tangible way. When I returned home after 10 years of living out west, I had fallen away from yoga. Work and trying to make up for lost time with family and friends, after a long absence, kept me busy. It wasn’t until my second son was born that I finally found my way back into the loving and accepting arms of yoga. And, it could not have been a more perfect time. Becoming a mother has been the biggest challenge I’ve encountered thus far in my life. It is so difficult and stressful being responsible for the safety and character development of a little human being. At least it was, and is, for me. But when my sister told me about a studio here in my tiny little city, leading yoga teacher training sessions, things began to change.
In the five years I had been away from any type of yoga a great feeling of anger, disappointment and failure had taken up residence in my heart and almost went deep enough to embrace my soul. Anger, resentment and exhaustion had become me. It was yoga that helped me transcend that dark presence, that become my new fail-safe. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to be bitter because that is what kept me going; that is what I had come to know. Never had I been so far away from who I knew I was in my heart. A veil had been cast over my eyes until I faced that anger (that I now know was fear) in every pose I held in those four intensive weekends of asana practice and self-reflection.
Every time I come into my yogic space, whether on the mat on in my everyday life, I feel that transcendence gently caress my cheeks, especially when they are damp from tears. Tears of sadness, tears of love, tears of knowing. Nothing I have ever encountered has been able to bring me the insight and acceptance that yoga has. So yeah, yoga in any form is transcendental.
It may not start that way but yoga’s power to propel and carry always makes its way into existence, which is not easily ignored, no matter how resistant we are to it.