As we move into the core of summer, we are reminded of America's original source of inspiration: Independence and Freedom. But what does true freedom really look like? What does independence mean if we are to maintain respect, compassion, and integrity as small agents of a larger body and community, never fully independent?
Practicing yoga asana grants us the space to live and breathe more freely in our bodies, moving stagnant energy and relieving common aches and pains when practiced regularly. Indeed, the benefits are not strictly physical. The mind is also calmed, giving us temporary respite from the constant barrage of thoughts as our focus sharpens and the breath quells the senses. The mind is empowered to decide and lead, instead of being dragged around by fleeting desire.
So here, we find independence from the raging ego and senses that is actually beneficial. This independence allows us to experience some freedom, but not without limitations. If we are to maintain this valuable experience over the long term, our habits will have to change. Perhaps we find that eating certain foods aggravates the body, agitates the mind. So we limit and revise what we consume in food and drink. Perhaps our perception, refined a bit, notices that certain music and media causes us to think and speak in ways that are hurtful or untruthful. We remember the times that we heard wisdom talks and how they brought us greater understanding, with that, some clarity, some willpower to become better and more in control of those parts of ourselves needing support and healing.
All of a sudden, yoga is no longer about the "me", but about the "us" of relationship, the receiving of teachings from a higher source, a teacher who has a studied, broader perspective, and the giving back to honor these gifts. The journey of self-betterment is now reflected back out as a more integrated person connects to his or her true identity, gradually more and more free of illusions about what is real and what is necessary to live a satisfying life. This personal experience naturally extends into gratitude, a quality of love for the awakening of the inner guide and outer circumstances and people who have aided this journey.
Freedom in body, mind, and spirit comes when we unite the three in service of the soul and its desire to give love and be loved. When we consciously integrate the realm of spirit while dealing with matter, it liberates the calculating mind and places us in the flow of grace. And what is more freeing than that?