Living Your Yoga – Part 1

For many of us, the yoga practice is the best part of our day. We quickly realize how centered, focused, and grounded a daily practice allows us to be. It doesn’t take long before we start to seek other ways to include yoga into our lives. How do we expand our yoga beyond that thing that we do for 60-90 minutes per day, and discover a greater capacity for living our yoga?

Living Your Yoga Part 1

My days become very busy during a yoga teacher training. As a result, my daily practice doesn’t always look like an hour or longer practice. Sometimes, it’s pieced together in various ways throughout my day.

One time I had a student challenge me about this. She asked me if I had done my yoga practice on that day. I suspect that she thought that she was calling me out, and presumed that I would have to fess up to a lack of discipline. I received the impression that my response surprised her.

On Yamas and Niyamas

Here’s what I had to say:

"All day long I am considerate of how I relate to my students, my staff, and to all whom I come in contact with. I am thoughtful of my actions and my words. In this regard, I am always aware of and practicing yamas and niyamas."

The Yamas and Niyamas are yoga’s guiding principles of living ethically in the world. They inform us of how to behave outwardly, and also remind us how we perceive the world around us internally.

Yamas

Niyamas

Allow these principles to influence your interactions with others. If there is ever doubt within you about your decisions or course of actions, you can ask yourself if they adhere to the yamas and niyamas.

On Asana

I continued:

"Before I came to teach my morning class, I performed Surya Namaskara A & B (Sun Salutation A & B). So, I did perform a physical practice today."

Asana is what we generally think of when we think of yoga. These are the yoga poses, or the act of getting on our mats or into our practice space in order to place our bodies in these positions.

While developing strength and flexibility are by-products of this practice, and these things make it more likely that we’ll live a long and healthy life, the main benefit of the asana is the discipline that is cultivated from a prolonged and consistent practice. When we continually return to our mat day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we develop an inner drive that will see us through all of life’s challenges.

In this practice, a great deal can be learned when we confront and process the things that we cannot currently do, and confront the things that we can no longer do.

When some people opt out of challenge in their yoga practice in favor for things that are always easy for them, they do themselves a great disservice.

On Pranayama

"While I performed my Sun Salutations I practiced ujjayi breathing techniques, and afterwards I practiced kapalbhati and nadi shodhana pranayama. I remind myself all day long to breathe fully and deeply (conscious breathing)."

Pranayama is yoga breathing techniques, or literally the control of life force. Through the practice of pranayama we learn about subtle energy, and about how this energy connects all living things on the planet.

The energy of yoga can seem like a very metaphysical thing. Yoga teachers love to talk about it, but since we cannot touch it or feel it, the doubters easily disregard it. Therefore, I try to explain it in a very practical way.

Yoga energy (prana) is not separate from the laws of physics. We can witness subtle actions and reactions. For instance, recall the last time that you received a random smile from a stranger. It is very likely that the random smile also made you smile. If another person saw you smiling, then they too received a random smile from a stranger. In this way, the energy of that smile traveled from person to person and onward. 

As yogis aware of our breath, and aware of our energy, we can be more skillful in choosing our course of actions and our reactions. When presented with options and choices in our daily path, we can understand more clearly the consequences of our decisions and choose to send out more “random smiles”.

On Pratyahara

I began to see on my student’s face the realization that her plan for calling me out for a lack of yoga practice was backfiring.

"This evening at dinner, I will refrain from having a piece of chocolate cake. Even though my stomach and my eyes will tell me that I should have some, I will instead practice mastery of my senses and abstain. In this way, I will be practicing pratyahara."

Pratyahara is often described as withdrawal of the senses. However, since most of us do not live in the modern world as renunciates, I think that it is more practical to describe pratyahara as a mastery of the senses.

People have difficulty overcoming their basic primal needs and urges. We succumb to our cravings for food, sex, and intoxicants even when we do not need them, when their indulgence is not ideal, and even when they might be harmful or fatal to us or those around us.

When we learn to live with a clear conscience (Practice Yamas & Niyamas), strengthen our resolve and discipline ourselves through the practice of Asana, and understand the subtle waves of energy that we emanate and perpetuate, then we start to truly develop mastery of ourselves. We step into the practice of Pratyahara.

On Dhurana

I added:

"Throughout my day, and in between lectures, I take opportunities to sit in silence and quiet my mind. When your mind becomes quiet, you can focus your attention on a single thing. This is the 6th limb of the Yoga Sutras, Dhurana."

Dhurana is single pointed focus, or concentration. Yogis have long associated tranquility, peace, and happiness with the ability to find stillness within. When the mind is very busy, when it cannot be still, it is in a state of anxiety. I don’t want to imply that thinking about things is bad, but we need to be able to turn off our busy minds from time to time, and relax them.

When we can focus on one thing, we free ourselves of unnecessary distractions, we can listen with greater clarity to our inner intuitions, and we can learn about the true essence of ourselves – what we hold meaningful and place value in.

On Dhyana and Samadhi

Dhyana is meditation, and Samadhi is union with your higher self.

To differentiate Dhyana from Dhurana, I’ve heard it described like this: Dhurana is something that you do, while Dhyana is something that happens to you.

When you slip into meditation, you can begin to know the thing that you are meditating on. This is when you discern the difference between reality and illusion, or the deeper underlying truth of things.

You become liberated from the confines of your ego, when you understand the truth of things (of your reality). You are no longer beholden to the trappings of like, dislike, judgment, worry, and fear. You become completely absorbed in the present moment, while remaining in total awareness. This is a pure state of being – Samadhi. As you go through your daily tasks, you are no longer replaying the past or looking into the future. You are immersed in the enjoyment of each moment.

Living Skillfully

Yoga is skill in action. Yoga is a lifestyle, it is a philosophy, it is a science of living well.

Incorporate everything that you know about yoga into your daily life, and your yoga practice will become fully a part of you, instead of just being that thing that you do for an hour per day.

Move through your tasks and chores with a conscious awareness. Like the way that you move through your yoga poses. Act intentionally. Give thought to your words and deeds. Understand that what you do has an affect on everything. Always practice.

All of us are in a great big symbiotic relationship. The sooner we grasp and realise this, then the more inclined to compassion we become, and the more skillful we live. This is living your yoga. The light and divinity that resides within me, is the same light and divinity that resides within you, and I recognize… Namaste

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