I think that many people today see yoga as a physical practice only. This is because the physical practice was what they were originally exposed to. And the Western world mostly focuses on physicality. In many ways it is fine, but for me, yoga is far more than that.
I have been teaching ashtanga to a few students recently, and they have been wonderful, very dedicated, showing up on their mat every morning for the past 6 weeks, even though the practice has been totally new to them. Since we were a very small group, they have been progressing very fast on a physical level. In 3 weeks we were able to complete the primary series -with some modifications- and manage their own practice. After just five days, they would do a Mysore style practice, with one led class every week. Of course, there is always some polishing to do, but as my very good friend Deepti wrote in a very recent article in Huffington post recently – you can complete the primary series in one month, but it takes a life time to polish it.
And this is so true.
Watching them develop, as a teacher I realised that the physical practice may come so easily to some, while others have to struggle with it. But it also reminded me of the different parts of yoga that have to be incorporated in a daily practice, because there is so much more to it, than just the physical aspect… and the deeper part of it can be difficult for some students to integrate in their daily life.
Yoga is challenging us on different levels, and it should. Not only the physical level. Yoga, for me, is making us aware about the possibilities that we actually can connect with our selves on a much deeper level, than the physical part only. Is it making us better human beings? I do not know. I would like to think that we are all born into this world, as innocent, illuminated souls, and that through our conditioning and surroundings, we take shape as the humans we become. But the base, the trunk, what is the real self, although shadowed by the different situations we are exposed to, will always remain the same, pure and bright.
Personally I have been working a lot with my self, with yoga as a tool. And I would like to say, that as a tool to become aware about my self, both the good parts and less upbringing parts, it has been excellent. Still I am struggling with my self at many points, and here, I really mean many, but I would like to believe that I am more aware about what is going on, and how I react to incidents in life. For me in a life that already is filled with a huge amount materialistic illusions, it is so important to stay true to one self. And this is very difficult.
So lately I have been thinking of the most important part of the yamas, that for me, often are a struggle.
Satya – commitment to the truth.
This might sound so very easy. But for me it is not. I am the last one to lie, be unfaithful, dishonest to anybody else. I would say that I am the most honest person you will meet or employ, I would never take a penny from anybody, and IF i would lie, I my face changes colour.
BUT, towards myself I am the first one to lie and tweak reality. It seems my world so often becomes shadowed by fantasies and illusions that just exist in my own head. It is often as if I am living in a fantasy, convincing myself that this will happen or might be true. Sometimes I am even convinced that I have a very good intuition. But when reality comes…. all of this is for sure not true.
So being true to myself, is one of the biggest challenges.
Ahimsa – compassion towards all living beings.
Usually translated as non-violence, ‘do not kill or hurt any other human being or animal’. And I would like to say, that I am a very “ahimsa like person”, although I do admit becoming very frustrated with my neighbours’ cat during the monsoon, when they all decided to move into my house and make it their toilet.
For me ahimsa is about being able to remove all unkind, unhelpful, destructive and judgmental comments. And sometimes we throw out comments or loud thought that in our world, are nothing of importance, but to the person involved they can be the most painful things to hear. And they may be good to hear…but may also hurt so much. That is violence. There is a very fine line between being honest, and not creating any pain to the other person. Sometimes it is just best to remain silent. Because to hurt somebody verbally can be even worse than hitting them straight in their face. It is a statement that say – I know better then you…but in reality, you have no clue about their background.
We need to be so careful with our words, because the power of words is one of the greatest powers of all.
As Donna Farhi writes in her book, ‘Yoga, mind, body and spirit’, any thought, word, or action that prevents us, or somebody else from living freely, is one that is harmful.
We need to see all circumstances in life, all attitudes and behaviours with an eye of compassion, removing our own ego, trying to see the world through the other persons’ eye.
There is no right or wrong in this world, there are just different approaches and backgrounds. We are all individuals, and have to be approached in an individual way.
Those two Yamas in particular have made me realise, while teaching, how vast and difficult it is to be non-judgmental – and approach every student, just at the moment where they are in life. Without hurting their emotions, self esteem or self image.
It is so important to keep in mind the diversity of all living beings, with out mirroring your personal views and approaches on them. Life is a living, transient process changing daily, there in no right way, or one way….there are just so many different ways to pursue what one hopes to achieve.
To teach is a constant development of ones’ own being. If we are just open to it.
So, coming to an end of this season, we have only one retreat to go….John Scott is arriving tomorrow.
For me, personally it has been a season of roller coasting, but I assume it is good to experience this as well. Life is a roller coaster, or like an Indian road, it is having many ups and downs. sometimes we get too focused on the ups or the downs. We get to attached to them, especially the ups….and then the downs become quite obvious.
Here the practice, with all it strength and its power is lifting me and carrying me forward. Although, I do have my doubts in between.
In the end, the inner silence, always created by the practice, shows to be the strongest tool to move on and see the world with new eyes….again 🙂
And in case you missed Purple Valley this year… we will be opening again on the 25th of October.
Love and light
Also remembering that everything that is suppose to happen will happen…. and everything that is not suppose to happen will not happen, try as you may….
// Sri Ramana Maharshi