May all beings be happy and free
Sometimes the language doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts. By Victoria Jackson
I’ve been refreshing my ‘yoga bio’ for a website and the act of looking back through time got me reminiscing about teacher training, and in particular that training course I had rejected — the one with the requirement to submit video assignments. I felt far too self-conscious back then to be at all comfortable reviewing myself like that!
Ironically, of course, so many classes went online during pandemic lockdowns that I’m now totally happy watching myself teaching. In fact, it’s weirdly fascinating and I find my own ‘yoga voice’ really rather soothing! Stepping back and observing yourself in the actual moment of teaching is much more tricky than watching a video later.
Recently during class I became aware of cuing ‘prayer hands’. I’d picked up the phrase from my own teacher to describe the gesture of palms pressing together in front of the chest. Then, all of a sudden, it sounded awkward. After all, I grew up an atheist, so what right did I have to speak of ‘prayer hands’? And more to the point, I knew there was an actual priest in the class!
So I’ve since changed up my cue: ‘Palms press, Anjali Mudra’. It sounds more neutral somehow. Even if it puts me between a rock and a hard place — I might be avoiding religion but am I heading towards cultural appropriation in using the Sanskrit language as a Westerner?
Fretting about how to cue Anjali Mudra led me to think about prayer more broadly. I’ve always loved Iyengar’s poetic words about the asanas being the prayers, the body being the temple, even if I’m not sure I understand it. Somehow the idea elevates my practice beyond a sweaty mess of physical postures into something far more precious and intangible. That has to be a good thing. So what does it matter that I’m not sure to what or to whom I might offer my prayers?
So to end, I offer a prayer — to you! It’s a bit more Sanskrit and it’s something else that I’ve adopted from my teacher — lōkāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu. “May all beings be happy and free”. All beings includes you and it includes me. It reminds me to seek happiness and freedom through my yoga practice and in my evolving teaching.
And as we come to the end of another year, I wish you much happiness and freedom in your own yoga journey.