Have you ever heard a yoga teacher say “come home your body on your mat”? Whenever I have heard this phrase, the teacher seems to mean for the students to experience all of the positive things we associate with being home after a time away.
Perhaps you are just returning from being away and you know these that include the comforts of your familiar space, the predictability of the ordinary, being with your family and your pets (or not being with your children now that they are back in school!)
Being at home isn't always delightful.
As all of us have experienced at one time or another, returning home can include negative associations and stress.
Similarly, being in a body isn’t always full of warm fuzzies.
We get injured.
We feel tired.
We feel anxious and strung out and unsettled.
I think the metaphor of coming home to our body in yoga is an invitation not to need to shy away from the reality that being in a human body has both opportunity for joy and potential for suffering.
The word śālā - pronounced sha-la with long “a” sounds - is one of several Sanskrit words used to mean home. It can simply be a shelter. Or it can describe a place where we practice yoga. Perhaps you have heard it included in the name of yoga studios.
My favorite translation of śālā is "the place where we practice knowing ourselves best."
Having a place to know ourselves best is exactly the point of yoga.
Inclusive of the joys and sufferings, where can we get to know our body, mind, heart, and soul best?
The magic in yoga practice is not in perfecting shapes according to some external ideal.
Yoga is not always about feeling better in your body.
It is about saying here is this pose, this meditation, this action, this idea. Now let’s explore. What do you notice? How do you respond? Does that align with what you want for yourself and the wider world?
I leave you with this well-known but no less amazing poem by Jellaludin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. I think it perfectly captures the complications of being at home with ourselves and offers us a beautiful solution for how to manage what we experience.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.