This was originally posted on my Facebook in July 2016 and recently popped up as a memory there. I am reposting it here because it is still just as relevant two years later. I have also been reflecting more on the sufferings of my pre-Ashtanga days that this post alludes to, and would like to share some of those reflections soon.
When I came out of the Brooklyn Yoga Club after practicing with Sharath last month, I was putting on some sun screen just outside the club’s door in front of the Ganesha statue on Vanderbilt Ave. Three black folks, two sisters and a brother, approached me. They first commented that I was smart to have sun block in the bright heat and I laughed about being so white that I need it, and then the guy motioned to give me a pamphlet in his hand. I said “no thanks” to the pamphlet so as not to carry anything I won’t use. He said, “well let me ask you one thing: have you been saved?”. It was a Church pamphlet. Fresh from yoga practice, I felt a natural smile rise in my eyes as I looked directly into his: “yes, I believe I have.” He said, “well, good then” and smiled back. I offered them all sun screen and the two ladies said no thanks but he used some with a laugh himself. We parted ways with a warm feeling and I wondered if I really had been saved. What gave me the conviction to say so? Yoga practice is not a religion but it is a method to deepen our spirituality whether we channel that through a religion or not. I can safely say that practice has saved me from my sins in the sense of awakening and preventing me from repeating them. Yoga gives me the tools to observe my suffering and to better protect myself from creating further suffering. Before I started practicing Ashtanga yoga around the age of 30, I had made a lot of mistakes in my 20s that created immense suffering in my life, which I can see now were a direct link to previous suffering. I was in a web of alcohol abuse, promiscuity, extra-marital affairs, codependency, broken promises, irresponsibility with money, and victimization – much the result of being enmeshed in a cycle that I didn’t know how to cut. In practicing Ashtanga, I have learned how to wake up, and how to wake up earlier, literally. Mind you – I had been practicing vinyasa yoga for many years before coming to Ashtanga, but it was not until the Mysore Ashtanga practice & emphasis on 8 limbs that I began to experience a more multidimensional, ongoing, transformation. With practice, every day is an opportunity to git woke and to get saved.