Bow. Hands. Eyes. Gratitude. Ask for blessing. Amen. Eat. We did this over and over again, day after day. On holidays, the extended family would all gather around in a big circle and hold hands and pray. Amen. I would always get all goosebumpy when the whole family would say amen at the same time. I was taught when two or more voices are raised in prayer that God answers--it's more powerful in unison.
The collective ask. We are all asking as one. Power to the people. Safety in numbers. We are all grateful. We are all approaching the same space with humility and love to honor, respect, and ask for blessings. The collective voice strikes a chord in my soul. We all say amen.
It happens at yoga. In the beginning when we all sigh out our big-bellied breaths at the same time, as if we all shared one breath and are all releasing it. And again at the end of class after practice, after shavasana, when we return to seated and bow, eyes closed, hands pressed together at our hearts, and say Namaste in unison. Yoga is not a prayer to God. Yoga is not religion. I'm not comparing. Yoga is the union of body and mind, of breath and movement, of spirit and practice. Yoga is yoking, intertwining two--or more--parts together to one union.
In a way, dinner table prayers were my first yoga. Of course, I didn't know it then. My first yoga class was in 1996 as a college-level PE class. There was no connection then of my mind and body, no connection of my breath and movement. I was just trying to do poses and learn balance. I flung and flopped my body wherever I could get it to go. I had no intention. I don't remember much about the class except for squirming throughout shavasana and being completely relieved when it was over. [Funny that now, shavasana is my favorite part--sometimes I do a few vinyasas just so I can justify another shavasana. I'm a damn fine model of the corpse pose. That's right. Look at me lying on the floor. Magnificent.]
I finally get yoga. I finally get prayer. I'm becoming a student again. This time not one who flings limbs to land any old place, but a student of intention, a student of union, a student of yoga.