Yoga’s popularity has continued to grow as people flock to the practice looking for the physical, mental and emotional benefits that the practice offers. Many yoga classes focus on just the physical aspects of the practice. Oftentimes, after a class I will have a student come up to me and say “that was a great stretch.” I used to take offense but then realized that was what served their needs at that time. They hadn’t yet grasped the bigger purpose of the practice.

Now, I want to stretch students minds to awaken to yoga’s highest intention for the practice. In the philosophy of yoga that I teach we strive to recognize and connect with both our individual nature and our universal consciousness. This means that when I come to my mat, I want to honor my own body, mind and heart in the moment and then connect with this bigger energy of the universal consciousness. You can think of this as connecting with your spirit and your inner self that is connected to the universal energy as well. Yoga philosophy speaks of this universal energy within the inner self as “Atman.” Yoga means “to yoke” and union as well. So basically, the grand purpose of the practice is to unite your individual nature with this universal essence of Atman that is in you as well as in everyone else.

In simpler terms a big part of yoga practice is to connect with your breath and to breathe in ways throughout the practice that unites your breath with your movement. We are breathing in the air around us along with everyone else. This air could be defined as the universal energy- the one breath that breathes us all. Therefore, your practice infuses both your individual and universal natures into one radiant being to celebrate your life in this moment.

The essence of “Atman” is filled with peace, calm, joy, love and light. When you become aware of this part of you in the practice you can infuse your individual nature with this universal nature and become more peaceful, calm, loving and radiant as you express yourself out in the world. After a practice go look in the mirror and notice the light that shines from your eyes- this is your individuality infused with universal consciousness. Let that union be what guides you to live a life filled with peace and joy. Namaste.

Janie Gunn