“Yoga as union, which means overcoming the divided self. Separation is the opposite of union, and the ultimate separation, which has affected all of us, is the mind in separation from its essential nature.” says Deepack Chopra in the forward of Eddie’s Stern book ‘One Simple Thing’, “For all its current popularity, yoga in India is entangled in mind-numbing intricacies, philosophical controversy, endless wrangling over ancient texts, competing teachers and systems, on and on. I deeply admire Eddie Stern for bringing clarity and compassion to such an unholy mess - the future depends on such clarity and compassion.”
I want to invite us all to take a moment be clear on what we are practicing, so when we come to the mat we are practicing something that is healing us and helping us be established in health and stability of body, mind, and spirit.
The word yoga comes from the root ‘yuj’ which means to yoke or join. As Eddie Stern points out in his book ‘One Simple Thing’, the practice of yoga was identified as a spiritual practice during the Upanishadic ages (800-500 BCE) ‘where it was described at Yuj samadau, which roughly means that yoga is a special type of concentration, called samadhi. Samadhi means absorption’. Absorption is the natural tendency of the mind, to become absorbed in things. Through yoga we allow the mind to be ‘absorbed in spiritual pursuits’. In my experience through yoga we point the mind in the direction of compassion and understanding so that we become absorbed in such a state.
The practice of ashtanga Yoga is the practice of the 8 limbs of yoga. Asana is just one of the limbs, which we put a lot of emphasis on because we are a very physically oriented society. We relate to the world through our senses and the senses are in the physical body. The practice of asana should serve as a trampoline into the other 7 limbs of yoga, most importantly in the yamas and niyamas, or a set of suggested moral attitudes, which arise naturally if practice is done correctly. These attitudes or moral conducts are suggested behaviors we take towards ourselves and others. The end goal of the practice of the 8 limbs is to learn to see ourselves, as we are so we can establish ourselves in health: mental, physical and emotional.
When we are established in health we can treat others with compassion and righteousness. We can focus our energy on leading an ethical life. We can put our attention in causing the least harm possible to ourselves, others and the environment.
Everyone of us has faults and darkness, we all have a little innate ‘badness’ we have to deal with; our job as practitioners of yoga is to be honest about it and use the practice to learn were there is darkness (as in ignorance) and how to bring light (as in knowledge) to these parts of ourselves so that we can be good humans. Practice is therefore not about any teacher or method, but about how we come to realizing this state of yoga, how we use it, and if apply it as a lifestyle not just the hour we spend on the mat bending out bodies as we breathe.
Here are a few questions you can spend some time on…
Who am I on the mat? Who am I off the mat? How can I merge these two?
What’s my relationship to the practice?
What’s unique about this practice? Why is it helping me?
How can I learn from my actions?
Your energy goes where your mind is. Put your prana in the essential things. Ashtanga yoga of the yoga of the eight limbs gives us a step by step process or roadmap of how to direct the mind towards the truth. Check your map every once in a while and if you have a teacher, make sure that the teacher shares your vision of the map.
Come practice the practice of the eight limbs of yoga with me this year, we will take time to understand all the limbs, so that you can learn to traveling along the path in a wholesome manner.
Portugal June 30 - July 7 (2 spots open still)
Wanderlust Whistler August 1-4
Upstate Fall Retreat at Ashtanga Yoga Newburgh October 11-14, with focus on Ayurveda & nutrition
Puerto Rico Winter Retreat January 25-30 (only 9 spots open)