The term "yoke" implies two animals connected to one another side by side with some kind of mechanical contrivance so that the animals, whatever their own desires and aspirations, pull together in the same direction. It didn’t used to bother me when the word Yoga was translated as "to yoke" or "to yoke together." When I began taking Yoga classes, it made sense to me in terms of Hatha Yoga that we yoke body and mind together so they pull together in the same direction.
But lately, when I contemplate how Yoga and my mind and body interact, I find that the separation that I once took for granted seems to have dissolved.
Imagine a cube of frozen cranberry juice sitting on sugar in a bowl. As the warmth of the room acts on the cranberry cube, it begins to soften and liquify and its very substance seeps between the grains of sugar. It mingles with them, but also takes on some of their nature, slightly dissolving the grains it touches and connecting each grain to the others. In the end, the cube has disappeared, but the sugar and cranberry juice have come together, each changing the other in the process.
My mind was once the frozen cranberry cube, hard, cold and rather sour. My body was sweet and unfocused. Now my mind has become sweeter and my body has more character. My mind no longer considers itself separate and superior to all other creation. My body is no longer at the mercy of impersonal external forces, and it has purpose.
For me, the experience of Yoga only started out as a yoking together of body and mind. In truth it has become a joining together of seeming separates. It has been a recognition that body and mind partake of the same nature, just as grape and cranberry juices both have the same nature.
I believe each Yoga has this joining, merging and mutual transformation as its goal.
Nada Yoga begins yoking a person’s inner reality with external reality through sound. As the practice continues, inner reality and external reality are transformed, and the two mingle and become one.
With Tantric Yoga, the exercises yoke two people together in common purpose and as the practice continues each is transformed and the illusion of their separateness dissolves away.
Yoga begins with discipline and leads to an enlarged sense of self.
The final goal of Yoga is union with the divine. There is a sense that practice of Hatha Yoga (even with purely physical goals) will lead inevitably to the practice of Raja Yoga (concerned expressly with pursuit of union with the divine). This is explicitly expressed in the maxim, "No raja without hatha, and no hatha without raja."
This is a lofty goal, yet I find it is also an intimate and loving process. As the illusions of separation dissolve away and we begin to experience the sweetness of our connections one with another, body and mind, our interior worlds merge with the external world that we create together, and the lives we live become richer and more beautiful. We discover that the divine is who we are, and is the very substance of our world. And that feels good. The more we understand this the less we have to fear and judge, and more we have to celebrate.
The divine in me salutes the divine in you. We’re all in bodies together!