Yoga is the foundation of my spiritual life. It also comprises much of my social life. My best friends are those people I practice with on Tuesday nights. Being in a room full of like-minded people moving mindfully and seeing the good in one another and in themselves is just about as good as it gets for me.
My favorite word used to be shakti, which Wikipedia defines this way: the primordial cosmic energy…the dynamic [feminine] forces that are thought to move through the entire universe. To this definition I added the word feminine, as Shakti is the feminine counterpart to Shiva. Now, I think my favorite word is bhakti, which means devotion, devotional service, or, my favorite, pure love. This is what I feel in my yoga practice. “Through bhakti one learns that one’s true family is the family of life itself.”* Just the good stuff, as my friend Adam often says. (Check out his yoga classes.)
There are roughly a bazillion words for love in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga. Bhakti tops my personal list lately, though another terrific Sanskrit love word contending for top billing is Atma Prema. Atma is the self or the soul; it is essentially the light within that never goes out. Prema is one of the bazillion words. Atma Prema is unconditional self-love.
On its surface Atma Prema has a bit of a primaballerina ring to it, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that it might just be the kind of sustenance we all need to keep our lives together.
Rumi describes Atma Prema this way:
I, you, he, she, we—
in the garden of mystic lovers,
these are not true distinctions.
Now that sounds like the kind of garden I want to inhabit! But living here in Vermont during stick season that garden can seem a little bit elusive. It does not have to elude you. Yoga can take you there. Cultivating your own home practice can be an express ticket to such bliss. Think of it as you might an E-Z Pass on life’s turnpike. A home practice can help you bypass the tolls and barriers that might slow you down. The benefits of yoga are part of the modern health-and-hapiness lexicon. Many of these rewards are accentuated in a home practice.
We are more apt to pay closer attention to our body’s needs when we practice solo, without the distractions of our peers and mentors. Give it a try. You might just discover some new freedom in your body and in your mind.

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