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The Call for Ceremony & Ritual in the Modern Yoga Practice

Updated: Jan 28, 2019

From: Featured Writers on Seattle Yoga News by Amber Tande

We all have a vast inner sanctuary, which if accessed regularly keeps us aligned with our soul’s purpose, our north star. What I see happening in the yoga-spirit culture is a call to go deeper, beyond a yoga pose, to navigate the formless that awakens within the form.

This kind of depth doesn’t happen in books. It happens over time inside the sacred pause and the sacred container (of body, classroom, practice, teaching style), in a reverent space of the heart, in a ceremony and ritual.

When we dismiss the formless, we often find ourselves depressed, irritable, unfulfilled, confused, indecisive, unclear, out of balance or any uncomfortable combination of the above; especially among a new human experience of fast technology, linear thinking and a disconnect with nature. We are also more vulnerable to injury in asana. The formless will always alert us of what’s needed, but we must be listening.

That said, form is absolutely imperative. This is where ceremony comes in. We create a sacred container (form) for the formless to arise without attachment to the outcome.

Next, we humbly make our entrance into the container, which can be a single yoga pose, a 10 minute home yoga practice, a sweat lodge, a tea temple, a class at your favorite studio or even with a teacher brand new to you: this is the ritual.

How you bring yourself to any action, any practice, any prayer or intention will determine how fully your truth expresses itself in a ritual.

During a ceremony and ritual, the most amazing transformations come about. It’s not always easy, but transformation is rarely easy. Transformation and transmutation heal gaps of integrity in our physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and intellectual being, but it requires deep listening to the subtle calls of the mystery.

Within the flow, the power, the heated, more rajasic styles of yoga (which are often beautifully crafted to wake us up), there’s a calling. Most of us feel it at least for a moment in our practice. Generally, it’s that heightened experience in the practices that draw us back for more.

It’s the awakening of deep silence that subtly nudges us into the more quiet and gentle spaces wherein we’re more receptive to the way in which the life force is breathing in us each moment.

We might tune into a deep longing to honor and lean into the rhythms of the season. We might feel the pulse of a fresh rhythm of the heart. We might drop into the craving to explore a new art form, new job or a new friendship. Perhaps we yearn for a more authentic expression of ourselves.

All of this lives in the formless. The ceremony brings it alive in a container well-tended and cared for, and in a way that’s practical in our everyday endeavors.

The Birdseye View of Ceremony and Ritual:

What is ceremony and ritual?

Ceremony is the container you create or that is created for you, for the formless to express itself in the highest light.

Ritual is the way in which you bring yourself to the movement and flow of the energy.

The art of creating a sacred space:

  • Have a clear intention

  • Clear the space

  • Practice presence

  • Move through the ritual with steady awareness

  • Pause and reflect

  • Close the practice in gratitude

For yoga practitioners:

  • Seek out teachers you feel energetically safe with.

  • Remember, ceremonialists, yoga teachers and space holders are just that. And human. If experienced, they are conduits for the mystery to move through. But watch for projecting your needs and desires of transformation onto them. It will make you both very uncomfortable.

  • Create your own rituals around and within your practice.

For yoga teachers:

  • Becoming a ceremonialist takes a deep love and devotion to the mystery-god, the formless-divine-source and the way it expresses in the manifest world.

  • Get training in the art of holding space, so your energy stays rooted in your own personal work.

  • It takes lots and lots of time and patience to be in ceremonies and rituals yourself and to be able to access your own navigational system of the mystery and translate it in a way that’s meaningful and useful to your students.

  • If you’re inspired to work in this way, you’ll begin to develop great trust in yourself and the way the information of the formless flows through you.

Wishing all your days are filled with inspiration, love and beauty.

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