How unique and wonderful is yoga practice? Each one of you, on your individual mat, is on a journey of self-discovery. BUT we do it together.
Home yoga practice is wonderful, but yoga practice in a class is super-wonderful!
Last night, in our two classes, we were working with strong postures. We strengthened not only the body, but the mind, the emotions and the inner spirit, too.
STHIRAM SUKHAM AASANAM means ‘that position which is comfortable and steady’. Approaching hatha yoga with this in mind is essential. If we work with awareness, and attention on the breath, we can achieve the postures comfortably, and hold them steadily. The comfort and steadiness in the body produces the same state in the mind. Steadiness of body and mind leads to being centred. When we’re centred, body, mind and inner spirit are connected. You have achieved ‘yoga’, unity.
When I began teaching yoga, forty years ago, it was almost unheard of in this country. So imagine my amazement when our three year old son came running out of playgroup and said: ‘Mummy, Mummy, the story was all about a yoga!’ I replied: ‘ That’s wonderful! Tell me the story.’ And he began: ‘Once upon a time there was a yoga who lived in a big castle…’ For yoga read ogre!!!
Here’s a lovely description: ‘Yoga is a systematic science of the body and mind leading to the union of the self with the Self, the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.’ The Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ means to join, yoke or unify.
Yoga is there, when you achieve the perfect posture, when you have the most amazing meditation, when you feel at one with everybody and everything.
Yoga is also there, when your body feels dull and heavy, when you come out of a disturbing meditation, and when you feel that everyone hates you.
Yoga is there…
Krishna concludes: ‘And if any man meditates upon this sacred discourse of ours, I shall consider that he has worshipped me in spirit. Even if a man listens to these words with faith, and does not doubt them, he will be freed from his sins and reach the heaven of the righteous.’
I do hope that touching on the teachings of the Gita has brought about some realisations for you. When I was a newly qualified yoga teacher, I read the Bhagavad Gita every summer. I always found something new in it. I always found a new way to look at my journey.
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI
We learn that: ‘The seer’s duty, ordained by his nature, is to be tranquil in mind and in spirit, self-controlled, austere and stainless, upright, forbearing; to follow wisdom, to know the Atman, firm of faith in the truth that is Brahman. The leader’s duty, ordained by his nature, is to be bold, unflinching and fearless, subtle of skill and open-handed, great-hearted in battle, a resolute ruler. Others are born to the task of providing: these are the traders, the cultivators, the breeders of cattle. To work for all men, such is the duty ordained for the servers: this is their nature. All mankind is born for perfection and each shall attain it will he but follow his nature’s duty.’
This concept is explained by the word ‘Dharma’, which is duty, cosmic order, correct living and right conduct. Yoga practice promotes clarity of thought and understanding, so that we can align with our dharma.
Krishna says: ‘There are three things which motivate action: knowledge, the knower and that which is known. There are three constituents of action: the instrument, the purpose and the doer.’
Yoga teaches us to watch our thoughts, and observe our motivations and intentions. If all actions stem from the heart, and from heart-centred intentions, then those actions must be pure. I was taught, when faced with a decision and an action, ‘If the heart sings, do it, if the heart sinks, don’t’. Always a good test…
The dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna in the Gita continues. Arjuna asks: ‘I want to learn the truth about renunciation and non-attachment. What is the difference between these two principles?’
Krishna replies: ‘The sages tell us that renunciation means the complete giving-up of all actions which are motivated by desire. And they say that non-attachment means abandonment of the fruits of action.’
Yoga teaches us to examine. To be aware of our bodies, to examine our thoughts, and to explore our motivations. Yoga is truly a journey of Self-discovery.
In Chapter 17, Krishna repeats his teaching of the gunas. He then explains OM TAT SAT to us: ‘OM TAT SAT: these three words designate Brahman, by whom the seers, the Vedas and the sacrificial rites were created in ancient times. Therefore OM is always uttered by the devotees of Brahman, as the scriptures direct, before undertaking any act of sacrifice, almsgiving or austerity. TAT, meaning the Absolute, is uttered by seekers after liberation who desire no reward for their deed, when they are about to make sacrifice, austerity or give alms, or practise some austerity. SAT means goodness, and existence. It also means an auspicious act. All perseverance in sacrifice, austerity or almsgiving is SAT. ‘
Interesting to contemplate the way folk have reacted to being told that we must follow a policy of austerity, in order to put our country’s finances in order. In this quote from the Gita, austerity is seen as a virtue and a self-discipline. Using measures of austerity will ensure that the country rebalances, and that the vulnerable will be sheltered and protected.