One of the main goals of a regular yoga practice is to be able to reach Samadhi, a state of deep concentration and meditation resulting in union with a greater reality … a greater universal consciousness. When we are in Savasana, we are working toward this state, feeling the benefits of our asana practice, resting our bodies in order to open up to our breath and release all of the tension and thoughts running through our minds — coming to a place of blissful nothingness.
Many Eastern and modern spiritual traditions claim that oneness is the pinnacle of spiritual achievement. In this sense, oneness means to connect to — and ultimately become absorbed into — a great numinous matrix. This can be likened to a drop of water returning to the ocean, as Zen traditions claim.
However, oneness can also be realized as the loss of individuality when memories and experiences become information within the Akashic records. In all of these cases, the individual that once was a human being no longer exists upon the death of the body. The essence of one’s experience and being is simply absorbed into the fold of a higher level of reality, or into a greater whole.
In the classical sense of oneness, each individual is advised to reject or remove the ego. This enables an easier assimilation into the great numinous state of oneness. This results in the loss of who you are, and all that you have gained, as an individual. However, this is not the only option open to us. We can retain our individuality and still become part of a greater whole.
The first time I took a live yoga class, at age 12 or 13, I remember hearing some strange, prayer-like, exotic word come out of my teacher’s mouth. Everyone echoed it back, and it made me uncomfortable. It didn’t stop me from going back, but I did kind of feel “left out,” as I didn’t know what they were saying, what it meant, or if it was the name of a god or other deity. Frankly, it sounded kind of religious, and I was definitely not into god-stuff at that point in my ’tweendom.
When my teacher told me what Namaste meant (“I bow to the god within you”) and how to pronounce it (Nah- Mah-Stay), it didn’t necessarily make the phrase any easier for me to embrace. But the social pressure of “call and response” soon won me over. I attended very small classes in Santa Fe, and any non-compliant Namaste’ers would be very obvious to the teacher and other students. At first it barely rolled out of my lips, a garbled rumble of vowels with slight hiss in the middle. I had no way of knowing that a decade later, I would be the one at the front of the room offering the same salutation to my classes.