Reverence. Until very recently, I reserved this term for people and things outside of myself. In fact, it was not a word to which I gave much attention and if it did amble into my path of experiences it carried a weight of formality and decorum, which, if left to my mind’s own traversing, created a sense of separateness and disconnection.
One thing I have learned along the path of practicing and teaching yoga, is that when the time is right, things become clear. The proverbial puzzle begins to fit together in ways we never imagined possible. If we can trust the process of growth and transformation, the knots of confusion and uncertainty will begin to unravel, sometimes instantaneously.
About a year ago, I was prepping to teach a yoga class and felt compelled to talk with my students about the practice of Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word, which I had always understood to mean non-harming or non-violence. That day, I picked up The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi, an exquisite translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and, there it was. The term reverence was being used by Devi to describe this practice of Ahimsa. In an effort to uncover the deeper meaning of the word reverence, I came across “honor, deep respect and awe”. Almost instantly, the meaning and significance of this expression shifted dramatically inside of me.
As students and teachers of yoga, we are taught and we teach that the practice of Ahimsa (non-harming/violence) in thought, word and deed, applies to people and things outside of the confines of our own body and mind, but also, and just as importantly, to ourselves. So, what if I treated other people and things with a deeply conscious reverence? With profound, radical respect and awe? What if I treated myself this way? What if every time I stepped onto the mat, I committed to movement and practice that honored my body, respected my energy and mind and allowed for a sense of awe to unfold? What if I took this practice and approach to my day-to-day living? How would inviting this practice of reverence into my world off the mat affect my relationship with myself, with my husband, with my kids?
I am still in the process of experimenting and experiencing, but, I’ll say this — shining this light of reverence, of deep respect and honor, onto my internal and external relationships and experiences reminds me to be tender, to be compassionate and to be kind. And, at this moment in my journey of life, when I let these things govern my thoughts, words and actions, I am reminded that opening to this idea of reverence actually has the power to be a connector rather than a projected instrument of disconnection. The mysteries and challenges of life seem to fall into place with more grace and ease and the once seemingly foreign encounter with reverence, transforms beautifully into a reminder of the true meaning of yoga as union.