Monday, October 18, 2010

We are not all monks

Yoga class feels so wonderful, and adds new dimensions to life. The body and mind begin to awaken to possibilities that seemed unavailable before. Someone suggests a book and through reading and taking classes a new way of understanding begins to develop. Breathing comes more consciously, maybe even time is starting to organize around getting to yoga class. But we are not all monks.

Can a person who has children, a job or two, health issues, an erratic schedule, or any other kind of routine actually develop a regular practice or even begin to include a truly deep inquiry into their life without feeling always there is not enough time and they never know enough? How does yoga fit into a regular life?

The basic principles underlying yoga are the Eight Limbs spelled out in Patanjali's Sutras, but even if you have never seen that, or heard of that before, they will help you integrate yoga into your life. They are simple, like doing no harm, or releasing judgmental mind and attachment through not grasping at that which is not yours. Perhaps when you see things as they truly are you will understand that your practice accepts you just as you are too.

Here's what I mean. You can only get to yoga class once a week. Is that a yoga practice? Yes. You carve out fifteen minutes a day to do some stretching you remember from class, and before you go to bed you spend five minutes in quiet sitting, to still yourself and refresh yourself for the night. Is that a yoga practice? Yes. Maybe you try to get to class two or three times a week and then don't go for a month and half. Is that a yoga practice? Well, you tell me. Do you bring your awareness to your breath while you wait for the subway in the morning? Do you center your weight over your feet and release your spine to rise, relaxing your shoulders, your jaw, your eyeballs while you wait for the elevator? Do you look at your neighbor and their children with open minded compassion as they try to resolve conflicts, without thinking judgmentally about them? Then yes, that is a yoga practice.

Yoga is not a mat-based activity. The yoga mat and the asana practices are one part, one way in. The practice offers insights and ways of being present that have no boundaries about bodies and mats, about inversions or even pranayama (breathing practices). All of that helps cultivate your awareness so that you can have a yoga practice throughout your days and hours, with or without a yoga mat handy. Does that mean that you can quit setting aside time for classes and asana, for meditation and a direct focus on the inquiry? No, I don't think so. But it helps deepen your understanding of the practice if you can let it slip off the mat and still recognize it.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, you're making me feel better about starting yoga again...I'm so all-or-nothing, but don't have that amount of time right now. But once a week, 5 minutes before bed, a few minutes of stretching every day...I think I can make that happen. Thx for breaking it down!