Photography by Taryn Longo
Words by Adriana Rizzolo
With over 300 yoga studios in this city, yoga has become an ingrained practice for New Yorkers. This ancient art brings an awareness to our bodies, minds and hearts that is irreplaceable. Beyond the physical, there is an awakening to be utilized in our lives: The limitations experienced in your body during yoga exist to juxtapose expansion as you move past them. As you create more space inside your body, a lightness of being surfaces. You also become more aware of your thought patterns and when faced with challenge or frustration, the direction they head.
Yoga is that space, that balance between inward contraction (connection) and outward expansion (creative expression). If you only turn inward, receiving, listening but not communicating (for example), your light dims. When you are constantly extending out, giving, talking without listening, eventually you will burn out. As we connect more deeply to who we really are and what we really want, we are learning how to live more truthfully, communicate more deeply and love fearlessly in our lives. I have been practicing for six years and am studying to become a certified Anusara yoga teacher, and although there are conversations about awakening to our own power and creating the reality we are hungry for, all of this “create your reality” business sounded impossible, or complicated, or way too obvious.
“A lot of people are doing a lot of yoga. But are we all really happier, freer beings as a result?” said Harshada Wagner, founder of Living Meditation, a network of teachers based in New York focused on guiding meditation.
When I began studying with Harshada three months ago, that was one of the initial questions he asked.
In contrast to the physical elements of yoga, which I had exclusively focused on honing until meeting Harshada, a focus on self inquiry through meditation has shifted my world, grounding my existence, once again, in a greater connection to the universe.
“Just as physical yoga practice strengthens, aligns and heals the physical body, inner yoga helps to heal and transform the inner experience,” Harshada said, describing the method of self inquiry he calls “inner yoga.” “Meditation is not just about ‘stilling the mind.’ People who engage in this work undergo radical transformation. They become more free, happy and able to share their greatness with the world.”
My personal study requires the cultivation of self respect, tenacity and fearlessness to move internally to have an experience of my own heart, ask why, and work to make every action sacred. When not only our mind and body, but our heart, aligns, it is obvious that there is a deep order in which the universe works. We are held and supported in the truth and love — similar to that of a strong loving embrace from a friend that allows you to let go and be held. It is a constant in out and around us at all times- regardless of how we are living or if we are aware of it or not.
The process of awakening Harshada teaches — sadhana, in Sanskrit — is older than the physically-focused yoga commonly practiced. Traditionally, physical postures were practiced to help yogis care for their bodies as they endured the process of inner awakening.
Harshada describes the personal potential to recognize spiritual intelligence as a bud, like on a tree, wrapped tightly by leaves.
“Our enlightened, fearless, powerful, loving essence is in us, but usually in a contracted form. In our trainings, we provide an atmosphere that helps the bud of people’s deep power to open and flourish. It is both very ordinary and practical, and deeply mystical: the idea is that, deep-down, we’re perfect. Our heart is golden. All of the love and power we desire is available right inside our being. It’s just that our heart, like the windshield of our life, gets gunked up with all the disappointments and unfulfilled desires — wounds we’ve experienced.
“In sadhana, we learn how to create space and clean the fear, the programming, the family patterns, and pain off of our heart. We learn to see truly. We learn to be powerful, bold and happy.”
The process might sound airy-fairy, but it isn’t. Rather, it is grounded in simplification, by looking deeply at the self conceptions and hangups that are the driving forces in your life. As with any transformation, the process of unraveling can be painful at times, but pain is temporary and the end result is a freer, less bound you. It can be intense, but it’s that intensity that affirms the beauty and greatness that is within.
The process begins with being rooted in the experience of your soul, and this form of self study can only be achieved with a guide. Harshada, in the past, might be called a guru, however his presence in personal self inquiry leads to more of an awakening between friends. He provides a safe space to work and heal, lighthearted insight and is unwavering in his honesty.
“You have so many thoughts and ideas about yourself, self esteem, self hatred,” Harshada said. “We all do … but that’s not you. That’s just your shit. You are that luminous child of God, you are pure Spirit.”
Balancing the energies within and tapping into our inner power helps us to see our lives more clearly, and gives us the strength to make shifts, both big and small. For it is only when we see our individual truth and path clearly that we are able to serve others with full love and respect.
After all, Everything begins and ends with our own experience.
For more information on Living Meditation click here.