Saturday, January 5, 2008

Yoga and Nature

As I sit in my living room today, I gaze out at over 3 feet of powdery snow that has fallen in the last 24 hours. Lake Tahoe is an amazing example of all the beauty the universe can create. I feel blessed to call North Lake Tahoe home.

Did you know that Lake Tahoe is the 3rd deepest lake in North America and the 10th deepest in the world? At 22 miles long, and 12 miles wide, the surface area covers 191 square miles. That's enough water to cover all of California in 14 inches of water! This incredible example of Nature's gift is cherished by local residents and visitors alike and is known as the "jewel of the Sierra Nevada"... if you have ever visited or appreciated it's beauty from afar, please check out how you can help "Keep Tahoe Blue" by supporting the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

Not only do we have the majesty of the Lake to cause our collective jaws to drop each day, but also the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. This "backbone" of the state of California, this "range of light" as dubbed by naturalist John Muir. These mountains leave me speechless and awe-inspired - whether admiring them from the shores of Lake Tahoe or spending 2 weeks nestled up close to them on a backpacking trip, they are my touchstone, my inspiration, my reminder of Good-ness.

But I digress...being that this blog is about Real Life and Real Yoga, and being that we've just received the biggest snow storm in several years, I am inspired today to write about Nature and Yoga. Here in Truckee, we have a lot of Nature and a little Yoga. To be more precise, we have a little Yoga that happens indoors. I have found many Yogis here in Lake Tahoe - they may not be practicing Asana much, but, in my opinion, they are practicing Bhakti (union through devotion) and their chosen God or Goddess is Nature. And I have most often found my inner Yogini while spending time in the bosom of Nature. Yoga means Union - union of the entire universe with itself. Not to get too deep or mind-bending here, we'll dive into that later, but put simply, Yoga is Nature and Nature is Yoga.
Countless terms in Yoga are derived from Nature. For example, Hatha Yoga is what many of us in America know as "Yoga" - it is the physical Asana practice that you experience when you go to most Yoga classes. "Hatha" is a nature-derived word meaning Sun (Ha) Moon (Tha). It represents the balancing of the male (Sun) and female (Moon) energies in the body. This system of Yoga was introduced by introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage of 15th century India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as a preparatory stage of physical purification that renders the body fit for the practice of higher meditation. Many of the names of Asanas (poses) are nature-based: Tree (Vrksasana), Mountain (Tadasana), Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana), Thunderbolt (Vajrasana), and the deepest of nature connections for me, Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) ...thus leading to a connection with nature while Asana is practiced. Standing in Mountain pose, I imagine I have the strength and solidity of the mountains. When I take Tree pose, it's easy to connect with the strong but supple redwoods, rooted firmly into Earth, reaching high to Sun, yet swaying with Wind to preserve their stance in the world.
Can I find the strength of the Redwood? Can I find the suppleness? Can I manage to be rooted in my center yet bend with the winds of life? This image has always had a great impact on my be strong yet walk a determined path yet go with the may be simple, but not always easy!

Nature is Yoga and for so many of us, Yoga (union) is most accessible through Nature. So if you're kicking yourself for skipping your morning practice on your mat, get outside and make today's practice a devotional session with Nature - look closely at a flower or pine cone, feel the roughness of a rock or tree branch with your soft fingertips, watch a tiny snowflake fall on your nose and know that no two are alike...take a deep breath of Nature's beauty and, who knows, you just might find that Enlightenment you've been chasing after!

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