Earlier this week, I met my yogabuddy Karen for a long overdue coffee date. Karen and I trained, apprenticed and taught under Lana Ackerman during her sojourn in Lethbridge, and at that time, yoga was the biggest thing in our lives outside our family responsibilities. We lived and breathed, thought and talked yoga all the time, and the students and fellow teachers at the studio were our community.
In the years following our mentor's departure, we continued to teach and learn from others, and met to practice in my basement with a few other friends.
Eventually we found ourselves, at different times, back in school: Karen to study nursing, and myself to pursue graduate studies on the effects of yoga on women in midlife transition. Needless to say, we see quite a bit less of each other, aside from chatting in the hallway at our children's school. It's ironic and a little depressing for me to realize that for me, the study of yoga and for her, the study of health and caregiving, has led to less time to experience yoga, the long, juicy practices, the community of fellow practitioners, the excitement and stimulation of workshops.
I was encouraged, therefore, when I read this passage in Nischala Joy Devi's The Secret Power of yoga: under Svadhyaya, To study is to love, Joy Devi says:
adapting study as a spiritual exercise addresses our social responsibility as well as that of our intellect.
This heartens me. I had always thought of self-study as a contemplation of scriptural or philosophical texts, and reflection on their meaning in our lives. I still do, and it certainly doesn't feel quite the same to be conducting literature searches on scholarly articles, or trying to interpret the results of those studies. Immersing oneself in the Sutras or the Gita is certainly a qualitatively different experience from poring through scientific papers, though each are fascinating and compelling in their different ways.
Still, both address the search for truth and reality, and the essential and central questions: how do we live our lives, in a way that makes us fully human, fully alive, in whatever situation we find ourselves in? My studies right now attempt to look at what it means to be a woman experiencing the emotional, biological, and cognitive fluctuations that occur as she moves from the years of fertility and youth to what can often feel like unknown and uncertain territory. And surely, yoga can be an essential part of making that transition more natural, more aware, and perhaps even more enjoyable. So I try to keep that in mind, when I feel disconnected from my practice, which is often snatched in 15 minute slices out of the day, and the days in the lab feel long: To study is to love. But it is also good to recall Einstein's words (as quoted by Joy Devi): "I did not discover it, I meditated on it, until it revealed itself to me". It's a reminder to me that even immersed in academic discipline, there is still an essential need for the quiet and contemplation of being on the mat.