Yoga: The Life Manual

Original Date: Mar 16, 2016

Yoga: The Life Manual

One of our recent teacher training graduates told our group last year that he came to realize and see that the teachings of Yoga give us a “manual” and a toolbox for navigating life. For every problem we may encounter, Yoga offers an explanation and practical advice for how to weather the storm. Yoga is so much more than Asana. But Asana is an important component of the practice. It offers us a way in, to begin the path of introspection, to begin the questioning. Through the physicality of the practice we begin to identify our obstacles, perhaps an actual physical obstacle, or perhaps a mental obstacle. Through the process of inquiry, we begin to see mental obstacles as more problematic than any physical limitation. The amazing thing is mental obstacles, once realized, can drop away in an instant.

Recent events have had me pondering: what is it that drives one to very dark emotional places, where sadness becomes all consuming? Can we actually help others out of these dark places, or do they need to do the work themselves? I am not really sure. Yoga is the work of “self realization”  to the greater oneness, which implies that it must come from only within, but is all encompassing. That inner quest is sparked by outer inspiration. By envisioning a life better lived, more simply satisfied, feeling connected to others. This is why I teach yoga. It is a deep desire of mine to spread Yoga further and further out into the community. It is my driving desire to lead teacher trainings, to make more Yoga teachers, guided in the principles of Yoga, who can reach out to more people and offer this “manual” for living.

In my Yoga classes this week, I have been sharing a line from the Yoga Sutras- “Maitrīkaruṇāmuditopekṣāṇāṁ sukhaduḥkhapuṇyāpuṇyaviṣayāṇāṁ bhāvanātaścittaprasādanam||Sutras 1:33|”

Translation:  “Peace (prasādanam) of mind (citta) (is achieved) by (internally) contemplating (bhāvanātaḥ) on (the feelings) of friendship (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), sympathy in joy (muditā) or indifference –upekṣā– (upekṣāṇām) regarding (viṣayāṇām) (beings who are) happy (sukha), suffering pain or distress (duḥkha), virtuous (puṇya) (or) impure (apuṇya), (respectively)||33||”   (source:  http://www.sanskrit-sanscrito.com.ar/en/patanjali-yoga-sutras/629)

In brief: Our interactions with others offer us an incredible opportunity for clearing the mind. Our interactions with others will present us with our greatest mental obstacles.  When our actions and reactions are realized, we can then begin the process of clearing out the “boulders” in the way of our Self realization.  Notice your feelings (bhava) towards others.  Cultivate friendliness and lovingness towards those closest to you. Offer compassion and support for those in need. Be happy for others in their moment of joy, especially if you notice your own feelings of envy. And cultivate neutrality, or acceptance of those who trouble you, not acceptance of actions you disagree with, but acceptance of them as people sharing this space of living with you. In this way, you can cultivate peace of mind.

Let me know if this Sutra resonates with you, or if you would like to discuss it further. These philosophical inquiries are the deeper practices of yoga, and can guide us when we might feel lost with Asana.