Off the Mat – taking yoga philosophy into daily life
This is the heart of the practice. I find it amazing that a 5,000 year old philosophy can be so very relevant to modern life. There are several key concepts that can help us both on our spiritual journey and to be more skillful in our daily life.
Unlike most North Americans who discover yoga through hatha yoga (postures), I started with meditation. I started in 1993 with a beginner meditation class. It took me the first year just to learn how to relax my shoulders but I felt the changes in my life immediately. About a month after my first class, I was in a challenging situation at work. My teacher’s voice popped into my mind, reminding me to breathe. Two deep diaphragmatic breaths gave me the space to think and I was able to act and postpone a crucial meeting until the next day. It was the beginning of freedom for me and I was hooked.
Yoga has given me the tools, knowledge and inspiration to transform every part of my life. Through working with the four primitive desires and how they combine with the six negative emotions, I’ve begun to understand myself emotionally. Using observation, self-witnessing and self-dialogue, I began to be known to myself. The teaching returns us again and again to the importance of ahimsa (non-violence) in working with ourselves and of not judging ourselves. Ahimsa combined with satya – honesty. When we judge ourselves, we aren’t able to be honest with ourselves.
As I developed a core of peace inside, I no longer felt compelled to spend my energy trying to manipulate external situations and people in order to feel valid and safe. Allowing others to be themselves is so much easier than trying to control everything! In this process, I discovered a faith that I will be okay no matter what happens. I may not like the way something unfolds or it may be painful, but I can use anything life offers to further my own spiritual growth.
The yamas and niyamas (restraints and observances) offer a way to work with myself and further my understanding as I observe myself. I didn’t have trouble with the theory of karma and reincarnation; it made sense the first time I heard it when I was sixteen. Our actions have effects. We aren’t just helpless victims of fate and chance.
Hatha yoga has brought me joy in my body and an opportunity to build awareness and self acceptance. I learn mindfulness as I work with my body as well as the ability to bring my attention inside.
My relationships with other people have improved as I slowly develop more compassion and equilibrium. I don’t let things slide as much out of denial and fear of facing the truth. I have many ways to keep calm and focused in disturbing situations including the old stand by of deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
Working with yoga has been a way for me to grow up and take responsibility for myself.
Internal or Self-Dialogue Be gentle with yourself, as you would be with any good friend. Don’t condemn yourself or be judgmental. Self dialogue is your conscious waking self having a dialogue with your vast unconscious.
Mind and Emotions Yoga helps you to lead a life in which problems don’t arise.There is a part of your mind which is untouched by these experiences – draw your peace from there.
Introspection Homework Awareness is always the first step in change. When I don’t live my life in a way that values what is important to me – I condemn myself to live someone else’s idea of my life.
Sleep Since its usually the mind racing around that is keeping us up, there are several yoga concentration, breathing and relaxation practices that can really help.
Slowing Down We live in such a rushed, stressed out society that many of us have a hard time stopping the momentum and learning to slow down.
Contact: Lynn Fraser [email protected]