The book Finding Warrior Pose is about yoga. After all, it's named after a common pose in yoga, Warrior Pose. But what got me fascinated with yoga in the first place, and how does it inform my life? Read on to hear more!
Yoga is a practice
At its heart, I fell in love with yoga, specifically ashtanga yoga, after falling in love with the discipline of doing it every day. Ashtanga came to me through a friend's recommendation. This led to a year where I became so dedicated to ashtanga that I would wake up at 5 AM, take the subway to Soho, and practice the mysore practice (self-led yoga) at a world-famous ashtanga studio every morning, and then clamber into work at my advertising agency job on the west side, sweaty, shaky, and happy. The discipline and simplicity of ashtanga is what I like about it: once you learn the poses, you can do it anywhere, anytime, with or without an instructor. After years of bopping about to different classes all over the place: hot yoga, vinyasa, kundalini, and so forth, it was a relief to find just one type of yoga to focus upon.
Yoga is spiritual
As a Hindu, practicing yoga is intertwined in observing religion and spirituality. It is not a pure religious practice like a pooja or other ceremony, per se, but more like a spiritual practice. That's because a large part of Hindu culture is respect and even worship for your guru. You would honor your guru before any class or practice. I find in yoga practices, that same feeling of gratitude and respect come out for the people who teach me yoga. And these days, most classes have Hindu statues up front and chant "Om" before and after classes, so this just adds to the feeling of being in a religious place - to be doing things that I would do in a Hindu ritual on a daily basis. Most Hindus do an every day pooja at home after they shower and before they get the day started. Honestly, that simple pooja is such a small, and such a common part of my life, that seeing it at a yoga class is just something I fall right into the habit of doing, with the small thrill of doing it somewhere outside the home. I often wonder how other yoga practitioners, who are not Hindu, experience this part of the class. Do they accept it as religion, or perhaps as a spiritual thing? It's something I'd love to know.
Yoga is meditation
Many years ago, I was in India with my cousins and aunt. My aunt had gotten way into a popular yoga guru who was teaching yoga. Well, I was really into yoga at the point too, so when my aunt asked me to join her in practice, I agreed. There I was, ready for the toughest yoga poses that required the most strength, like chaturanga. I was ready to show her all I'd learned. And? My aunt never moved off the floor. You see yoga for her and the way it was taught was mostly breathing and meditation. I learned that meditation is a huge part of yoga, whether that is in sivasana at the end of a class, or breathing exercises that balance your mind and body. That was something I learned much later, and my experience with my aunt showed that how yoga has been adapted into something in the US: strength-focused and physical, wasn't necessarily how other parts of the world experienced it.
And last, yoga is history
Any form of physical practice that has gone on so long, with so many different variations, and yet so popular, is a thing to study. Where did it come from? What informs the people behind creating it? And how do we just accept it as a thing that so many of us do? When I started to imagine Finding Warrior Pose, I was curious to pick at an imagined origin for yoga. I imagined an ashram that was steeped in history, with secret, hidden nooks of things to find. I imagined the monasteries of Tibet, which I'd had the occasion to explore back in 1997. The monasteries were dark places, lit up by home-made lamps dipped in yak butter, with the thick smell of it seeping into the rock themselves. A lot of that mystery, and the history behind it, informed how I wrote Finding Warrior Pose.