A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
Life gives us a constant opportunity to practice yoga.
I was sitting on a chairlift in Windham, New York last week, wishing that this beautiful day wouldn't end. I started to get up in my head regretting my plan to stay for only one day. I was having a conversation with myself, "Why are you so stupid? You should have planned to stay longer! Its spring break! You could have stayed all week! I don't want to leave tonight!"
When I realized that I was not accepting the moment or the situation but pushing it away, I took a deep breath and was able to stop myself and surrender to what was right in front of me....this gorgeous days on the slopes with my children. My attachment to not wanting the day to end was creating suffering and actually pulling me out of the day and into a place of NOWHERE. In Conversation with God, God says, "If we are not NOW HERE , we are NOWHERE." ON paper, putting some space in between the W and H changes everything. My deep breath and my awareness of my thoughts created the space in my mind to be able to go from NOWHERE to NOW HERE.
Impermanence is the nature of the human condition. Everything changes. This is a truth that we all know in our minds but its hard to accept in our hearts.
ATHA YOGA ANUSHASANUM is the opening Sutra in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. This simple statement says "NOW begins the exposition on yoga". That first word, ATHA or NOW is the basis of the entire philosophy of yoga. Patanjali wants us to focus on NOW and pay attention to what's happening in our bodies, minds, breath, and our hearts using the tools of the eight limbed practice of yoga.
As Judith Hanson Lassiter says, "The ability to respond to NOW without clinging to it or pushing it away is the essence of the spiritual practice of yoga."
Yoga teaches us that the only unchanging part of human existence is the PARUSHA, the eternal divine self, that place of love and bliss. The recognition and faith in this will bring us peace.
Yoga is about creating space in our bodies and minds so that we can access that still quiet space inside of us.
When we are in touch with that place, we will have peace and clarity. We will know when the time is right to move forward or to stay and wait.
In asana practice, we have a chance to create and open space in our minds and bodies or to close it down. When we attempt to get into a pose too aggressively, we cause our body and our mind to contract. Think of what it feels like when you try to move a really heavy piece of furniture. You brace yourself, grit your teeth, hold your breath and PUSH! Everything that is happening in your body to get that dresser to move is a contraction or a closing down of sorts.
In order to move the dresser, we have to create some emptiness inside of it. We may empty all the drawers and try again. If its still to heavy to move, we may take all the drawers out. So we have actually created space in the item in order to lighten it. If its still too heavy, we may have to wait and get some help so that we don't hurt ourselves.
In our asana practice, we do the same. If we are holding our breath in a pose, its not unlike the full drawers. So filling with breath is good but it needs to be released to create spaciousness in our body. When we are unable to breathe comfortably in a pose, this is an indication that we should wait to progress in the pose so we don't hurt ourselves. (just like waiting to move the dresser). If our minds are full of comparisons, thoughts, judgements, we have heaviness in our minds, again not unlike that full dresser. So to create space in our bodies and minds so that we feel lightness and ease in our poses, we empty ourselves of breath through our exhalation. We empty our thoughts to become fully in the moment of the pose.
When we are fully in the moment in the pose, we should feel a steadiness and ease. In this place of spaciousness, we might just find that we are ready and able to progress and move forward in our pose. Until then, we work to create spaciousness in our bodies and minds so that we can access the still quiet space in our soul.
There is a school district in Encinitas, CA that received a grant from the Pattabhi Jois foundation to bring twice weekly yoga classes to the students. According to the superintendent, it was part of a mainstream physical education program to promote fitness and overall health to the students in the district.
Some parents were angry about it claiming that the school was pushing a religion on the kids.
Yoga is not a religion. It is actually a philosophy. A way to train the body and mind to become aware of the self. It is also a spiritual practice, if you choose to use it as such. The most common use for yoga in the United States, I would guess, would be as a physical practice. To get in better shape, build strength, tone, and flexibility.
Whats great about yoga is that it allows YOU to decide what purpose it will serve. It is open to all, no matter what God you believe in or don't believe in.
So what is the difference between religion and spirituality? Spirituality is a way of discovering our true nature and finding a connection between ourselves and all that surrounds us. This can help us to find a deeper meaning to life. Spirituality and Religion each promote qualities of kindness, compassion, community, and service.
To me, religion is spirituality in a structured setting. It has specific traditions and teachings that create rituals for people to follow. This can be good and help people to find connection, support and community, as well as an institution that they feel committed to and responsible for. If it becomes too rigid, however, religion can create division and separation between institutions and people.
The earliest spiritual teachers like Jesus and Buddha didn't attempt to create a religion. They didn't say , "do exactly as I say" or "my way is the only way!", instead they encouraged people to look within to find their own truth.
So if you feel a bit separated from your religion, or you are wondering how yoga fits in to your spiritual life, you can use yoga to enhance your personal beliefs and spiritual nature. Each time you come to your mat to practice, you are making a commitment to discover your perfect and Divine self.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras