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Yoga: Beyond the Physical

October 27, 2008

Most people in Western civilization practice asanas when they go to their yoga class.  Asana is the physical poses in yoga.  But often they miss out on the big picture in yoga, despite the fact they may reap certain mental benefits, such as stress relief and increased concentration, in addition to the physical benefits, toning and stretching the body, that yoga asanas provide us.  I have been in training to become a yoga teacher.  I pursued this for my own enlightenment more so than to actual learn how to teach, although I am definitely rolling the idea around of teaching people other than my friends and family.  The teacher training program has opened my eyes to some of the more amazing aspects of yoga, the philosophy behind it.

Ironically in yoga, if you were actually following the path to enlightenment, laid out in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the asanas would not be something you would do for possibly a couple years or so when you first start your journey under a teacher or guru.  Before the asanas comes the yamas and niyamas, which are to be practiced and adopted into one’s life.

The yamas are universal moralities and include the following:

  • Ahimsa or compassion for all living things
  • Satya or commitment to truthfulness
  • Asteya or non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya or sense control
  • Aparigraha or neutralizing the desire to acquire or horde wealth

The niyamas are personal observances and are as follows:

  • Sauca or purity and cleanliness
  • Santosa or contentment
  • Tapas or disciplined use of energy
  • Svadhyaya or self study
  • Isvarapranidhana or “to lay all your actions at the feet of God”

We had been given an assignment previously to work on a yama or niyama we felt that we struggled with.  Mine was santosa or contentment, and while I did successfully find santosa in certain parts of my life, I feel as late that I have let my mind get the best of me.  While preparing food for Z for the next couple of days and freezing it I meditated on how I have been feeling lately.  I realized quickly that I had let my emotions and panic get the best of me lately.  I had not kept my mind trained as well as I should.

And so I came to the realization that:

  • this baby is going to come when she comes
  • people are going to vote and another president will get elected
  • my kitchen is going to be demolished, but it will be rebuilt
  • the yard will eventually get landscaped and the propane tank moved
  • we may move in the very near future or we may not for another two to three years

Hundreds of thousands of events are going to continue to happen in my daily life no matter how insignificant or life changing they may be and I just need to accept them and adapt.  I really need to stop stressing because it only causes myself and my loved ones pain.  I need to focus on taming my mind, and taking care of my family.  Or in short I need to be more yogic.

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