Words by Gitika Garg Art by Jessie Liu
In today’s world where social media dominates our modern landscape, the true meaning of spirituality has been clouded with misconceptions and false portrayals. Don’t get me wrong, eating healthy, meditating and practising yoga are important elements of Eastern philosophy. But what we need is to strip spirituality back to its basics.
Meditation and yoga, although they seem like a new bandwagon that everyone is jumping on, are ancient practices with roots back to more than 5000 years ago. The wonders of globalisation have connected the East with the West, impacting the understanding of wellbeing. In the West, increased levels of stress, anxiety and unhappiness have compelled us to adopt Eastern ways of life, a life that seems filled with solace and calm.
However, as with many things, the West has managed to monopolise and gentrify the Eastern pursuit of holistic wellness. There are yoga studios everywhere these days but many studios are failing to honour the key underpinnings of the practice.
The word yoga itself originates from the Sanskrit term ‘yug’ which translates to the union of the mind, body and spirit. The essence of this Eastern philosophy lies in working on self love, acceptance of yourself and finding a sense of stability amongst it all. Yoga stretches beyond flexibility (no pun intended) and external factors. Whilst the postures are an essential element, these moves prepare you for being still and meditation.
Branching away from its true roots, a lot of modern yoga has been given the label of a sculpting and toning method for the physical body. It’s become a workout for achieving physical goals. This departure from Eastern values has gone pretty far, now we have naked yoga, yoga with dogs, and even goat yoga. While we all enjoyed that moment when Khloe Kardashian and Kevin Hart tried to keep their cool as baby goats jumped around them, trends like these are part of a commercialised projection of spirituality fashioned by Western attempts to reinvent ancient traditions to fit their tastes. Now it’s clickbait over breaths, abs over mindfulness and IG pics over reflection. We are losing what really matters.
The West has also made spirituality a form of elitism. Yoga classes are expensive, and the socially expected workout gear is worse. Local studios can seem like untouchable spaces only for the worthy, which is in direct conflict with the values of Eastern philosophy. Spirituality is not a commodity and it shouldn’t be treated as one. The fancy mats, sandalwood candles and windchimes don’t mean anything, all you need is yourself and your intention. You can practise spirituality from the comfort of your bedroom or even at your office desk. Youtube is one of the greatest gifts that has been given to us where you can find vast collections of free guided meditations or instrumental music that allows for a bit of quiet contemplation. Free apps such as Headspace and Sattva are another great source of tapping into this inner consciousness. Letting your imagination run wild, taking a walk in nature or journaling are also other ways of reconnecting spirituality to your higher self.
As you can see, yoga and meditation are much more than saying ‘namaste’ and chanting ‘ommmmmm’. It is about connecting with your true nature because, at the end of the day, the quality of our life is determined by the quality of our state of mind. Let me ask you a few simple questions. Why do we brush our teeth? To keep our teeth clean. Why do we take showers? To keep our body clean. But when do we ever take a moment to clean our mind, a place that continues to accumulate the dirt of stress, fear, anger and insecurities? This is spirituality.