I just completed three days of training toward my RYT 200 status, a position that would identify me as a yoga teacher registered with the Yoga Alliance. So far, I've completed 62 of the required 200 hours, so I've got a ways to go.
As I've moved along with the training, I've been feeling my practice deepening: I'm becoming more aware of the ethical, philosophical, and even spiritual roots that ground the practice of hatha yoga. In the eight branches common to most systems of hatha yoga, the physical practice of the poses or asanas forms just one of the eight. In much of the yoga offered in health club settings, this branch is often the only branch available because it coincides most closely with the fitness objectives of physical exercise.
Anyone who practices just this branch of yoga can benefit from it physically, both in their muscles and in their physiology. The mindful breathing, the poses, and the movements positively affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, too, reducing depression, say, or chronic stress. Such resonant effects of moving the body are at the heart of yoga's identity as a link between the body and the mind through mindful breathing.
In my training, what I experience feels as if I am moving more deeply into an awareness of these effects that helps me to feel more self-accepting, acknowledging my weaknesses or flaws without being stressed by them. They are an essential part of who I am, but not the most important part.
That part, which is also awakening as I train, is a sense of gratitude for my life, both its setbacks and its blessings: Its setbacks for prompting me to reconsider what I can do to change myself for the better, and its blessings as a sense of joy as I increase my capacity to improve as I change.
At the end of each practice, whether alone or in a class, I say, "Namaste." It can be translated as "The light in me honors the light in you." For me, it's become a way of affirming the gratitude and joy that yoga brings me.
Medieval European maps were displayed so that the East, the orient, was at the top. I like to imagine that in this way, they directed viewers to aspire upward toward Jerusalem, their spiritual home in this world. For my own spiritual geography, yoga provides me with an Easterly home for aspiration, and "Namaste" is a verbal passport to that home.