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Yoga and Ritual: Restorative Practices For Tough Times


In mild of the current violence and craziness, I assumed I’d write about two practices which might be notably near my coronary heart: yoga and ritual…


Restorative practices reminiscent of these will help us once we’re feeling worn out and exhausted, particularly on this present period of activism and emotionally devastating information. It’s essential to place the telephone down, shut the browser, and take a second for self-care every so often.

One after the other, individuals stroll into an open area lit by candles. Mild music performs, and alongside one wall is an altar, with statues and stones. Someone lights incense, which invitations the members to breathe deeper. The trainer speaks in a softly commanding voice, bringing everybody collectively. Practitioners comply with his or her course with good belief and set an intention for the apply. They go right into a deeper place. A meditative mind-set is reached by most members. 

The power builds and reaches a peak, the place new insights are discovered. After a soothing closing ceremony, individuals speak amongst themselves, blissful. They’ve a way of readability and ease. They pack up and depart, wanting to convey the power again house, and searching ahead to the subsequent apply.

Did I simply describe the ceremony of a yoga class or a ritual? It could possibly be both one. Yoga and paganism’s similarities go deeper than one may anticipate. Listed here are a number of the issues these practices have in widespread.

people stretching arms out making multi-armed goddess kali pagan wiccan practice similar Goddess FriendshipPhotograph by Max Pixel, CC0 Public Area

Energetic transformations

Opinions might differ on the objectives of training yoga, however usually, the aim is to hyperlink asanas (poses) with intentional breath to stimulate prana or chi. This makes the physique and thoughts stronger and extra relaxed. It additionally prepares the physique for meditation and additional religious enlargement.

Throughout yoga follow, the mind shifts from linear beta waves towards extra enjoyable alpha and theta waves. This psychological state promotes a way of religious connection, and is usually referred to as the ‘flow-state of thoughts.’

As pagans, our objectives for ritual, usually talking, are celebration or acknowledgement of a cycle, communion with the gods or nature, and / or having a religious expertise. Our power isn’t stimulated via asanas, however in different methods. We use ritual, feeling oneness with the gods, chanting or singing, dance, meditation, and extra. Simply as in yoga, our spirits begin to soar when the power rises inside us.

Just like the yogic flow-state, ritual consciousness can also be an alpha mind wave exercise. If a meditative state is reached throughout ritual, theta waves can be skilled as nicely. On this means, the identical mentally transformative advantages might be skilled by both apply.

Discover your personal path by means of instinct

Yogis are inspired to seek out their very own follow that most accurately fits their physique, and inside that, to seek out their very own yoga move. They’re suggested by their academics to vary their poses or follow if wants be. Accessing one’s personal instinct about what the physique wants most at that second can result in the most effective expression of the pose. Ultimately, a yogi can take heed to his or her physique and lead themselves by means of the asanas they want probably the most. At that time, they attain a sure degree of mastery.

In paganism and ritual, we’re typically led by instinct as properly. We select our department, the deities, location, and the kinds of ritual we carry out based mostly on our emotions. Even when a guide or article suggests sure deities, candles, herbs, and chants, the options might not ‘really feel proper’ for the temper or season. Once we adapt one thing that higher matches into our lives, the change brings a few extra significant follow.

yoga pose pagan wicca similaritiesPhotograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Apply is essential

The definition of a yogi is ‘one who practices yoga.’ Yoga must be practiced commonly so the advantages, similar to flexibility, aren’t misplaced. Think about it this manner — it’s one factor to merely consider that yoga works, and one other factor completely to follow it and achieve the advantages.

The identical might be stated with paganism. If we don’t follow, we could also be religious in perception alone. Who amongst us hasn’t fallen into a nasty place when there was no time to hook up with the divine? When ‘extra necessary issues’ come up, our time spent communing with the gods can endure. When that occurs, our voices and pleas might develop weak within the gods’ ears.

I’ll be the primary to confess that I’ve fallen into dangerous habits once I was overwhelmed by life. At these occasions, I missed out on each yoga and ritual practices. It left me in a shallow place — one the place I used to be simply overwhelmed and confused. Coming again to my practices helped. It was sluggish at first, however it turned empowering once more after some time. Which brings me to my subsequent level:

Yoga and working towards rituals are a life-style

“True yoga isn’t concerning the form of your physique, however the form of your life. Yoga is to not be carried out. Yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about the place you might have been. Yoga cares concerning the individual you’re turning into.” Aadil Palkhivala

Yoga is one thing to be, to not do. The yoga way of life consists of emotions of freedom and purification, and feeling extra at peace with issues when yogis depart the mat.

Equally, our pagan practices and rituals are a life-style, too – the whole lot from celebrating the solar / moon celebrations, to creating time to attach inside, and with others. Many people are pagan as a result of we’re, properly, a bit magical. We will’t change who we’re, and our practices assist us to look ahead, strengthen our spirits, and purify our intentions. In a loopy world, apply helps us be happy and entire.

What we apply at this time isn’t what was practiced a thousand years in the past, nevertheless it’s nonetheless significant

Yoga has deep roots in historic mysticism, probably reaching again so far as 5,000 years in the past to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. Though it was delivered to the ‘western world’ within the late 1800s, it didn’t take off in reputation till Indra Devi opened a middle in 1947. The popularized type of yoga immediately, which developments towards a transcendent physical-spiritual expertise at its greatest and health at its most bland degree, is sort of totally different from its origins in India.

The evolution of yoga, particularly just lately, appears to have a follow for everybody. From yin yoga (holding poses longer) to vinyasa (motion and breath-alignment), ashtanga yoga (ordered poses), scorching yoga, and restorative yoga, there’s so much to select from.

Equally, paganism and Wicca have roots in historic mystic practices and religions. It additionally has constructed and grown from many historic roots in a number of cultures into what it’s as we speak, into neo-paganism. This originated a while within the early 18th or 19th century to the 1960s, relying on which path you take a look at. A number of the bigger branches of those paths embrace polytheistic paganism, Druidic, Gardnerian Wicca, Vodou, Basic Greek Revivalist, Hedge Witchery, Kitchen Witchery, Fae witchery, and lots of extra.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel, CC0Photograph courtesy of Max Pixel, CC0

There was discrimination towards each practices

At one level or one other, each yoga and paganism have been each regarded as one thing that was practiced by individuals who have been primitive, or less-than the ruling class. British Christians outlawed yoga within the 1700s-1800s, sending it underground in India for hundreds of years. Likewise, Malleus Maleficarum began a spiritual conflict towards pagans and witches, and incited the killing of anyplace from 35,000 to at least one million individuals. As painful as these histories are, understanding this may help us and society to not repeat errors.

We’ve got to remember about potential cultural appropriation

Typically we take part in actions that have been began by a tradition totally different from one’s personal. Relying on the place you’re from, this might embrace yoga, Vodou, Greek gods, or Norse gods. It’s all the time good to be respectful, inclusive, and do analysis. Study the place apply originated, the historical past, the translations of any non-English phrases, the tales of their gods, and the which means of sacred objects and symbols. Strategy with humility and an open thoughts. This will help with figuring out the unique intentions, and can make the exercise extra culturally genuine and fewer watered-down.

We each have fun the earth, many holidays, and lots of gods

Not all Western yoga courses rejoice Hindu holidays, however one of the best yoga courses contact upon them, at the very least. There are about 1,000 Hindu holidays yearly and as many as 33 million deities within the pantheon. When a yoga instructor calls upon a god or a goddess whose vacation or feast day is occurring on the time, I discover apply much more particular.

Comparatively, we pagans have 13 full moons, 13 new moons, eight photo voltaic spokes yearly, and private celebrations as properly. We’ve hundreds of gods as properly, as they vary from throughout historic and trendy occasions. We additionally share a number of the similar gods and goddesses, and incorporating them into our follow makes it extra significant.

yoga retreat beach paganism wicca similaritiesSeashore yoga retreat, courtesy of

Different similarities

In each practices, you’ll discover solitary and group practitioners. There are retreats and festivals everywhere in the world with big-name leaders / academics.  The group may be supportive, and a superb place to make associates with comparable mindsets.

Equipment might assist, however they’re not vital. You should purchase as a lot gear as you want with yoga, however it doesn’t essentially make you a greater yogi. Equally, you don’t have to spend something to apply Wicca or paganism. Shopping for a statue or different altar accent doesn’t essentially join you extra with that deity, nor does the best shade of candle, the correct incense, and herbs, and so forth.

Maybe most significantly, many individuals expertise bliss and a deeper religious understanding after yoga or pagan practices / rituals. Our feelings are clearer, and our objectivity stronger. Our practices will help us get by means of the tough patches of life, and summon power once we want it. They will additionally assist us develop extra religious and have fun the great occasions.

I hope extra of these celebratory days are coming, and shortly. Within the meantime, it’s necessary to apply self-care to fight fatigue and overwhelming feelings. I’ve skilled lots of them these days, and going again to follow feels identical to going house.

Blessed be. Namaste. Might you discover your path, and with that, your bliss.


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