Growing a Personal Yoga Practice
After 20+ years of teaching and studying yoga, at some point everything, meaning the stuff of the objective realms, became an aspect of my yoga practice. From the raw material of the five elements to the coalesced form of a technological marvel like an iPhone, to the pure-nature of an iris blooming in the spring rain or the mystery of life and death played out in the birth of a friends child or the loss of a beloved, the energies keep shifting and changing and I’m learning to just let them come in and let them go as they pass through. Kind of like the weather and the seasons. As I age my feelings and sense of safety in my body regarding these changes have waxed and waned between awe and horror at the prospect of nothing as I know it will last, including my body and all the things and activities I’d hoped to accumulate. The more I practice though, the more I see that this is just how it goes and I dont have to worry, life has it’s ups and downs and simply sitting with them at least slows the process and I am enjoying it more and more.
Practice, or sadhana in Sanskrit, is the definite and sustained effort to correlate my being with the view that I (as a soul) am not spinning into chaos even though the materiel world continues to do so. With a little susutained effort, I can be comfortable with change, gain and loss because I can remain still and simply be. This result drives me to rely on the benefit of a life of yoga practice and to continue the effort. Now the past, present and future seem more connected than ever and I feel a sense of continuity of view that holds all the vairied shifts in energy, like the water in snow-globe supports the gleaming sparkle of all the bits floating within it. We all have this ability latent within us and yoga is desribed as exactly that state of being, the state where the soul abides in peace as the world spins along, with or without us doing anything to make it that way. A state where we are not disturbed by dualities and can abide as a soul, as a clear seer. One day the bits will settle and we will just be the water.
This is notion is the fondation of the exercises put forth by the sage Patanajli in the Yoga Sutra, who states the world of things is here both for us to enjoy and to aid in our liberation. We need to come to terms with our embodiment through investigating it and deciding to what degree we will attach ourselves to something that will eventully betray us if we hold it to close. This concept also implies a deeper fundamental truth we as yogis must face; things always change and to become liberated, we must learn to abide as that aspect of embodiment that simply observes the change but does not get caught up in one thing or another, lest we mistake ourselves for the impermanent, or mistake ourselves as one who lives and dies by the changing of forms that occur for the embodied soul that we are. Read the begining of chapter two in the YSoP a few times and you will get a sense of what he is getting at.
Like everyone I suppose, I’ve been a life long seeker of peace and contentment via one form or another. When I went to my first yoga class in 1994, I felt like I was home and have been happy to study and learn all I could since. I was also a person who was deeply troubled and confused. Being young at the time, I did not know this came with the territory and life is a series of lessons that can lead to wisdom. At that early stage of life, yoga seemed to be a synthisis of all the results oriented processes we as western people look to find via health and fitness, phiosophy and religion, and aspects of self-inquiry found in couseling and therapy. Yoga as an object, was somthing to do that wrapped up a lot of loose ends. There was also the possibilty of a community I needed and may have missed out on in some way, or even deeper yet, the needs I have for a familiar group to be in legion with. This was certainly the case for me and something I’ll get into in future posts. Yoga, as I wanted it to be held a lot of promise for healing and as it goes, staying with it did heal me of wounds and misunderstandings that came with being new in the world. It also gave me what it was supposed to, which was access to my inner being. For that I am forever grateful.
So to my former self (and to all the young people who I’m really enjoying teaching and the long standing supportive community of Near East Yogis) I’ll say two things, thanks for taking on the practice of yoga and getting me here , and also, learn all you can about yoga now so as the changes life brings you come about, you can enjoy them, and if you don’t enjoy all of them, then at least let them liberate you. They will liberate themselves anyway and maybe sometimes you’ll remember to sit back and enjoy the show. Beware of letting yoga become a materiel persuit as it has become in many circles and learn the Yoga Sutra soon so it can support you along the way. People wait to long to integrate this part, which leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding about what yoga is. Blessings, Casey