According to legend, when the old Swami masters sent their disciples here to the West, they told them just to teach westerners Asana because our minds were not ready for anything other than dealing with the physical. Instead let Asana awaken the mind, step by step, for it is inherent in the practice to do so. Rather than proselytize and demand our awakening let the body first detoxify, open and then the magic can arise.
What has evolved from these first teachings is a bare bones practice that can be taught by Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Jew, or Protestant; in homes, gyms, office, yoga studios, church or in Times Square. It is a gift passed down through generations, a way of understanding human nature, of connecting to Mother Nature, of learning compassion, tolerance and patience. There are no age restrictions on who can practice this age-old discipline; indeed it has been designed to keep the body youthful, strong and flexible, while opening the awareness of the mind.
Attempt to balance on one leg and you soon learn not to take yourself too seriously, not to sweat the small stuff, which is not to say you don’t sweat when stretching and massaging your way through an hour’s class. And then there’s the intake of breath, nectar of the divine, feeding every cell in your body, renewing, rejuvenating and reviving your entire system. Most importantly, yoga teaches you how to be present to a given moment, for there is only the present; and after a day of being worked over by life there is nothing like yoga to gently put you back together.