The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to bring together or join. When you participate in a yoga class or come to your mat space alone, you work to promote the unity of the various aspects of self. When you have the luxury of flowing or practicing with other yogis and with a giude you do not only work to unite the self, but you create an atmosphere of unity and similarity with your fellow practitioners.
The idea of unity eradicates any notion of hierarchy. The idea that one is better or more capable does not resonate in a yoga class. Ones physical ability or flexibility does not determine their mental state, and therefore does not necessarily add to the development of self. Over time, with practice, one develops strength, flexibility, and breath retention, which all positively effect the physical body. Because these things change the way in which the practitioner moves, focuses, and breathes, the development of the physical body and the vicissitudes one experiences within can promote the development of self, but the original physical capabilities of the physical body do not directly correlate with how “good” one is internally and externally.
What if we allowed our minds to wander for a brief moment and allowed the idea of similarity to venture into our souls? Take a moment and think about the person to your right and to your left. Envision yourself emerging from your body and inhibiting theirs. How do you feel? Did you notice a change? No. The mind and soul will not change no matter where they venture. This idea that essentially all physical bodies are the same, and they all have the same capabilities promotes unity. During your next practice I invite you to consciously flow with a breathing pattern that mimics the breathing pattern of those next to you. Notice how the practice changes. Similar breath retention can allude to a feeling of strength and motivation. You silently motivate those around you to flow with a purpose, to achieve a goal, or to accomplish a set intention.
Aristotle once wrote that the energy of the mind is the essence of life. If you think about this for a moment, it makes sense that ultimate power does not come from physique, but it comes from the mind. The mind is a tool that can change perception. If you view others as a threat than you neglect to invite unity into your life. If you assume that a person is below you, or better than you, then you will never understand compassion and unity; you’ll fail to see the strengths in others and you’ll fail to learn from them. If we consciously prevent negativity from arising in our minds and invite positivity, love and selflessness into our lives then we work to make this world a better place. Unite. Yuj. Join. Do yoga.