march spotlight on: legacy

I keep thinking about legacy. This word keeps coming up, arising out of nothing, like signs on the freeway (“Legacy Ahead”; “Legacy, Exit 4A”). It is currently, as it is always, around us – in the collapse of certain dictatorial regimes around the world, the legacy of oppression and suffering is ending. In the lives of many of my friends, who get married or give birth or commit to a mortgage, their legacies change and evolve with each step of life. Even in a book I’ve just finished, the disastrous legacy of a Minnesota family: halfway through, I think, these people are doomed, and then fate takes a turn for the better, lives are spared, before the next disaster presents itself. The ebb of legacy.

From a personal standpoint, much of our legacy is already embedded in us; our impact in this life can be traced back through our parents, grandparents, and through their karma, our own is revealed. As we’re bound to our families, we inherit their stuff. A friend in college wisely counseled me during a particularly worrisome phase of my life, when I wanted nothing more than to be completely different from my mother. The legacy of our families, she said, need not dictate our current state of being. We can create our own legacies. Which is true (and wonderful), but I am happy and proud to report, knowing what I know now, that I truly am my mother’s daughter.

So. What’s with all this wistful talk of legacy? And what does it have to do with yoga? Every time we step onto the mat, we are participating in a tradition that spans thousands of years, and uncountable numbers of people. Every time we take a deep Ujjayi breath, or extend our arms at the beginning of Surya Namaskar, or sit in stillness, we join the legacy of yogis past and present. Every time we choose calm in the face of a challenge, a skillful response over a snap reaction, or empathy instead of apathy, it’s like coming down the on-ramp, onto the freeway, and merging with the other souls who’ve chosen this path. A different path, to be sure, but a meaningful part of the heritage.

What would you like your legacy to be?

modern yoga's legacy makers: bks iyengar & sri k. pattabhi jois

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