Yamas: Brahmacarya

Everything in moderation is the universal truth that accurately describes the goal behind the fourth yama Brahmacarya. I have heard specifics about to what specifically one should be applying the principles of moderation, but I don't personally find them individually important.
The key to this broad understanding of the fourth yama is as easy as it sounds.
In everything in your life—work, food, exercise, meditation, talking, shopping—practice moderation.

It's so simple right? We all know what is an appropriate amount of food for dinner, versus the heaping plate of pasta which so tempts us. That one's a no-brainer, because when we overdo it, we immediately feel the effects in the form of an upset stomach. When we over-indulge in exercise, our body becomes physically taxed. Et cetera. In Meditations From the Mat Rolf Gates describes this phenomenon well in his chapter on yamas. He says:

"There is the middle of the road and while on it we experience "knowledge, vigor, valor, and energy." If we indulge in immoderation, though, even for a moment, we immediately embark on another set of experiences-- namely, guilt, remorse, obsessive worry, inertia. It is really that simple." (p. 56)

I do consider this understanding of brahmacarya to be totally valid and not only that, completely comprehensible to everyone. But, I think there is more. I think that there are several layers of depth to the true brahmacarya.

I have heard another simple description of this yama, which explains it essentially as "conservation of one's individual essence."  Which is like moderation from a different angle.

How to describe it?

  • It is not giving too much of the self away, and equally not taking too much from others.
  • It is understanding one's mind and the nature of the mind, and then acting accordingly.
  • It is determining one's dharma, the overriding purpose of why we are here, and then pursuing it.
  • It is practicing everything, and I mean everything from a place of love in one's heart.


How to practice it in everyday life?

Practice yoga! The true meaning behind the practice of yoga is self-realization. It all starts and ends with the self. Maybe the first years are mired in physically practice (asana) only, but that's okay! The important piece is that you are here on your mat, not running on the treadmill, and that there's a reason that you're consistently drawn back to the practice on the mat.

Furthermore, live out your days—your time at work, eating, sleeping, reading—practicing yoga. Practice the yamas and niyamas (I'll get there someday, I swear!) in all that you do. Set aside some time to meditate--even if it's just a few moments a month, begin to cultivate the notion of quieting your mind. 

How to practice brahmacarya on the mat?

Practice with love. While we all want to have rockin' bods, there is no need to overdo your asana practice. Trust me, I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I love to push myself physically and am as competitive as the next guy. But we are not here practicing yoga in order to be bootylicious. We practice as part of a comprehensive plan to understand fully the Self.

And as with anything in life, your heart will tell you when you are practicing brahmacarya accurately. And when your essence is fully in balance you will know because you will shine.

Yamas: Asteya

I have been stuck for the last couple of weeks thinking about asteya, the third of five yamas . I was steadily humming along writing easily once a week until I bumped up against  asteya,  and haven't been able to drag myself to the computer to hammer out some specific ideas until now. So, I guess I can't promise any specific ideas--I feel as much in the dark as I did two weeks ago.

I wonder if my problem is that I'm trying to find some hidden meaning in the literal translation of asteya. In English it translates to non-stealing. That being stated, I suppose that it can most easily be understood as not taking what does not belong to you. Or to avoid the double negative, taking only what is rightfully yours.

Much like the first two yamas (for an in-depth explanation, see the previous two posts) despite the social connotation of non-stealing, the third yama must originate with us, with the self. How then can we avoid stealing from ourselves?
The most obvious things that come to my mind are things like getting enough sleep, eating properly, not smoking and drinking too much, and getting proper physical exercise. But those things make me sound like a 1950s government health announcement. And, for students of yoga, even beginning ones, they should be understood as necessary to a balanced life and practiced regularly.

What are some ways that we can avoid stealing from us on the yoga mat? Or in other words, how can we practice asteya and give to ourselves rather than take from ourselves when we are practicing? Here are a few of my ideas:

Link the breath with each movement.
I see so many students struggle through postures trying to find the deepest expression of a pose while all the while holding their breath or gasping for air. The practice of yoga is about gaining awareness and consciousness while on the mat. When practiced properly with breath supporting body and body supporting mind, yoga can be very soothing for the neural system and should serve to energize you. Forcing yourself to go too far in a pose and struggling for comfortable breathing as a result is simply a disservice to the self. One which could even be considered a form of stealing. So, BREATHE! Make it smooth, even, and comfortable. And if you're not in the greatest yoga pose ever seen, at least you'll be making progress, rather than hindering your journey.

Try to stay present in the moment.
Unless we are consciously working on present moment awareness through a meditation practice, our minds are generally humming along at a million miles a minute. Our lives are regularly narrated by our constant barrage of thoughts. When we come to a yoga class, we are often looking for a refuge from the outside world; a place in which we can relax the body and mind and "escape" from what lies beyond the edges of our mat.  When you're on the mat in a classroom setting or in your home practice, try to avoid "escaping" from your current task at hand. Rather, enrich your moment by being hyper-aware of your body, breath, and surroundings. The practice of yoga is really a training for Self-discovery, so use your time on the mat as such.

Know your limits.
This is as much for me as it is for you. As a fellow-human being I am regularly subject to all the issues that I boss you around about on this blog. Just like the rest of you, I also desire to strike my very best pose and make big leaps quickly in my physical practice. But the practice of yoga asana is not a practice of quick rewards. As mentioned in the previous point, this time on the mat is training time, practice time for progress on the yogic path. Injury and pain is the result of trying to move too quickly toward asana achievement. In the end (now!) you will be best served to treat your body with respect and keep your practice pain free.

So, while I can't say that I solved any mysteries about  asteya, I will say that I feel more comfortable with my understanding of it. To sum it all up, I think asteya is about following your body, mind and spirit toward the positive and toward ways in which you can give rather than take. And let it begin with you and naturally it will move outward to positively (hopefully) effect others.

Yamas: Satya

The second of five yamas  is Satya which translates as truth or truthfulness.
(For a refresher on the limbs of the eight-fold path or all five yamas, you can refer to the last post: Yamas: Ahimsa)

Ah, the notion of truth. A sticky subject in my opinion.
I suppose I should start by trying to define truth. Is it non-lying? Complete honesty? Certainty?

I think non-lying is a good place to start. So, what does that mean?
As I touched upon with ahimsa, although the yamas are considered "outward observances" or social conduct, they must inherently begin with the self.
How? So, not lying to ourselves about our intentions, our capabilities, our dharma. Not only not lying, but also recognizing our full potential as an aspect of truth. And knowing what it is that we desire out of situations and people; which is more easily obtainable if we are truly knowledgeable about ourselves to begin with. And also knowing the limits of our abilities and knowing when we've given our best and when to cease.

Okay, let's simplify. The yama of satya begins with us.
We must first come into an understanding of ourselves about our true nature. In other words, we need to get to know ourselves. Some of us have no problem with this initial step, while for others it's easy to avoid addressing the issue by being caught up in daily life, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc.
An easy place to begin the practice is on the yoga mat! We can use our asana practice to gain awareness of everything, but especially of ourselves. The physical practice of yoga is the perfect platform on which we can begin to grasp a sense of Self.
If we don't know us, how can we be held accountable for our actions? Judith Lasater actually talks about integrity as element of truth. To her, integrity is internal honesty--the idea that you wouldn't do something harmful even you were the only one to know about it. (Living Your Yoga p. 124) I think I have to agree that integrity can act as a self-test for whether or not we have established satya within ourselves.

Once this initial step is taken, when we can firmly grasp at least some truth about ourselves, then we can take the next step and bring the satya into our daily lives.

This part of it seems much easier to me because of its literal social implications. Socially, we tend to all (mostly) know that it's better to tell the truth than to lie. Even little white lies can be damaging. And sometimes this means saying things that don't want to be heard.
But this does not mean saying things that are intentionally damaging!! I think we've all been in situations in which we are fully aware that what we are about to say will be hurtful, but we do it anyway. But speaking our minds honestly is a great way to develop satya in social situations.
By acting honestly in each of our interactions and relationships, we create a solid base from which to grow most functionally. When we lie, we create separation between ourselves and others, potentially damaging our relationships with them.

How can we apply satya to our practice on the mat?
Knowing our physical limits and understanding the truth of pain vs. non-pain. Despite whatever it is that your neighbor is doing or that your teacher is requesting of you, you are remaining true to your physical capabilities and not pushing yourself to injury.
Another truthfulness practice is knowing why you are in class. What is it that you are there to achieve? You can work on this by setting an intention for your practice (however small) and sticking with it throughout your time on the mat.
One final satya practice is recognizing the broader scheme of Yoga. This one can be hard for new practitioners and those who feel that they attend class to work out. Understandable in the first few years of practice. But eventually, if you are acting from a place of truth, you must reconcile the work on the mat with the greater goal of Self-realization.

There is one final thing to say. The word satya literally translates as "actively becoming the truth of the Universe." (Lasater p. 124)
Wow. Something for which we truly can aspire.

Yamas: Ahimsa

I've decided to include you all in my own little self-study of the 8-limbed Raja path of yoga. The idea of the Ashtanga (eight-limbs) method is that through devoted practice to the eight steps, the yogi will progress toward the final limb, samadhi, understood as "self-revelation." But of course, there is much work to be done along the way.

The limbs, in order, are:
1. Yamas: Social Conduct
2. Niyamas: Individual Conduct
3. Asana: Posture
4. Pranayama: Breathing
5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses (beginning stages of meditation)
6. Dharana: Concentration (also in relation to meditation)
7. Dhyana: True Meditation
8. Samadhi: Self-Revelation

There are five Yamas which begin the 8-limbs. They are basically five ways to act in the presence of others. To me, they represent a way to sort of set ones' intentions in a clear and pure direction. They are the "if you can accept these, then you can move on to the next stage" step.

The yamas, in order, are:
1. Ahimsa: non-violence/non-harming
2. Satya: truthfulness
3. Asteya: non-stealing
4. Brachmacharya: moderation
5. Aparigraha: non-attachment

Today, I want to do a little exploration around Ahimsa or non-harming. Whenever I think of the first Yama I think of the lesson told to me by my teacher, Theresa Murphy. She is brilliant when it comes to putting knowledge of the 8-limbed path into practice on the mat. Although the Yamas are in reference to social conduct, certainly, you must be able to apply them to yourself first. In Theresa's lesson, one needs to consider acting with non-violence not only toward others, but toward oneself, especially when it comes to yoga asana.  In the class setting, we often try to push ourselves further than our bodies want to go or are prepared to go. Maybe we are trying to impress our teacher or others or maybe we feel a sense of peer-pressure to look as good as our neighbor does in their pose. In practicing ahimsa on the mat, you respect your limits and abilities by avoiding harmful behaviors which could lead to injury.

In the social context of ahimsa how do we act non-violently, or non-harmfully toward others? Seems like a no-brainer, right? Treat others with kindness, compassion, and love.
Easy to say. Not always so easy to fulfill. It is common to become annoyed or angry with others due to the wide-range of personalities out there and the regularity with which we interact with people. Even those who we choose to spend our time with can anger or annoy us, leading us to act in a harmful way.
What steps can we take to prepare ourselves to act regularly in a non-harmful way?

I like Donna Farhi's perspective on the first yama. In Bringing Yoga to Life on page 30, she says,

"When we feel connected to others, we find that we are naturally compassionate, ahimsa, and that the first yama, "not-harming" is not something we strive to be but something that we are. We see the essence of ourselves in the other and realize that the tenderness and forgiveness we so wish to have extended toward us is something that all humans long for."

Okay. So maybe the first step of the first yama is (again) beginning with our own selves, actually recognizing our own humanity. Recognizing our own desire to be treated non-harmfully and without violence. Calls to mind the old adage to treat others the way you'd like to be treated. Understanding that we ourselves should prefer love, compassion, and kindness over hate, misunderstanding and meanness is a great way to prepare ourselves to act accordingly when we go out into the world.

Now the hard part. Acting with ahimsa toward those whom we love. They are (almost) always the recipients of our anger because we spend more time with them and we know that they will love us even when we are cruel to them. How do we avoid funneling our harmful thoughts and actions toward them? I can think of a few ways, but surely they are boundless:

1. Thinking before you speak. My mother used to suggest this to me all the time. And I finally just decided that she's right. Before something unproductive and harmful comes out of your mouth, taking a moment to reflect on its possible damaging effects. And then stopping yourself if it's bound to do more harm than good.
2. Consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed. Putting yourself in the others situation and trying to understand their perspective and reason for action before acting hurtfully yourself.
3. Breathe. Sometimes when we are going to say something negative or hurtful, the best way to avoid it is to breathe deeply and count to ten. Perhaps by the time you get to ten, you will have thought about what you were going to say before you say it and you may also have considered the reversal of roles.

So, maybe as you move through your week, thinking about ahimsa and how to put the philosophy into action. Perhaps each time before you are about to act in a harmful way (be it towards yourself or another) you can stop yourself and consider the possibility of acting more kindly. And with each time you do so, making it more habitual and more likely that you will live with love in your heart.

Yoga of Action

Since moving to a new city and struggling to find a job for the last couple months, I think I've been acting a little crabby. Not having a job and running low on money is admittedly stressful. But not an excuse. For anything really.
This morning as I was showering and thinking about my behavior, I realized that the real trouble behind my crankiness is that I haven't been acting yogically (technical term) despite my stress.
It's easy for those of us "on a path" to be a bit high and mighty about our way of life. We can feel like we've figured it out, like we have a goal in mind and we're working toward it. I can say to myself: despite picking on members of my household all month and whining about my inability to do anything because of my financial situation, I still practiced asana and meditated every day.
What a joke!
What good does it do me to continually improve my trikonasana if I'm being a jerk all day long? And what good does it do me to consider myself a yogi if I'm not continually putting my work into action?
The yoga of action or Karma yoga is one of two yogic paths exemplified in the Bhagavad Gita. While my situation is vastly different from that of Arjuna, one of two main characters, who is being asked to fight against his friends and family in war, the principle is the same--you have to act, to put your skills acquired through practice into action. Always. Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:

This is philosophy's wisdom;
now hear the wisdom of yoga.
Armed with this understanding,
you will shatter your karmic bonds.

On this path no effort is wasted,
no gain is ever reversed;
even a little of this practice
will shelter you from great sorrow. (2.39-2.40)

But then, perhaps more importantly, Krishna goes on to say:

Action is far inferior 
to the yoga of insight, Arjuna.
Pitiful are those who, acting,
are attached to their action's fruits.

The wise man lets go of all
results, whether good or bad,
and is focused on the action alone.
Yoga is skill in actions.  (2.49-2.50)

The point? In my own interpretation, the point is that if you act rightly and justly (yogically) at all times, you will not need to be attached to the outcome. You will know that you did your part and all that comes next is what it is. 
So continue your daily asana practice, continue to meditate, continue to go to class and chant Om, but keep in mind that yoga is more than that. Yoga in action is kind, humble, calm and just. It is doing what you know to be right, even when everything else feels wrong.

Dualities

Given our humanness, we are prone to making judgments on things. Well, everything actually.

Good vs. bad, hot vs. cold, right vs. wrong, etc.

These judgment calls are almost always based on past experience--our past actions/feelings/understandings are naturally going to shape the way we view the world today, and thus, the way we feel about everything.

But these dichotomies of right and wrong are made up in the mind. Things are not one way or another, they just are. And no matter how you view anything, there is always going to be someone who views it exactly the opposite as you. For example, Nebraska summers--brutally hot, right? so easy to complain about because of the discomfort they cause. However, talk to a Nebraska farmer and he/she will tell you the necessity of the heat to grow corn. For them, the heat is a good thing.

Through a yoga practice, we can start to cultivate the awareness of things just simply as they are. Try spending an hour without judging anything. It's nearly impossible. And the nature of our labeling is often a misunderstanding of the true essence of that thing. In the 1978 translation by Sri Swami Satchinananda, Verse 1.8 of the Yoga Sutras states

Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.


How do we start to change? Part of the practice of fully understanding something is often a matter of a shift in perspective--a regularly occurring theme of this blog! For instance, moderate suffering can be a reminder of the things we have to be grateful for. Another example, if a new teacher shows up to teach your yoga class you may be dismayed because of your attachment to your teacher, or you could consider that you may learn a new pose or hear something cued in a way that resonates with you.
In other words, get the full story. And try to keep in mind that no matter how you label anything, there is always another way. And that way isn't necessarily wrong. It just is.

Fear of Yoga

It is fairly common to run up against students who are afraid of the big Y yoga. That is, the yoga which encompasses several tools designed to advance toward Self-Realization. For example: chanting (Mantra yoga), meditation (Laya yoga) or praying (Bhakti yoga) can and should be part of a well-rounded yoga practice. But this freaks a lot of students out. To them, chanting Om is something New-Age or against their religion.

The practice of yoga is an ancient science. The idea is to clear away all the muck and grime that we accumulate by being humans and get acquainted with our true nature. The Indian yogis, those who obtained enlightenment, did so through devotion to god. And to that matter, one doesn't even have to believe in god to be on the yoga path! There's a path for athiests (Jnana yoga) which focuses on knowledge and intellectuality.

The Hatha path, which is the practice of asana as done in a yoga class, is considered the most difficult and forceful of all of the options. I am currently on page 147 of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda and he has yet to do a single yoga pose. His path to the Self was one of meditation and devotion to god.

So the next time your yoga teacher invites you to chant Om with the class, consider it! You can use it as an opportunity to ponder why you are in a yoga class at all. If you were simply interested in working out, wouldn't you just go to the gym and run on the treadmill? In my opinion, there is a reason that we're drawn to the practice of yoga and it is part of our path to figure it out.

And if you experience fear as a result, try to open your heart to the antidote to fear, which is love.

Asana

Yoga is not about poses. It is not about breathing. Yoga is about consciousness.
I read this in the Yoga Journal about a month ago and it has really stuck with me.

The Raja path of yoga or "King's Yoga" outlines eight steps toward Self-realization, the fourth of which is asana.

Of course, most people who have delved into the philosophical aspects of yoga realize that the asana portion of the 8-Limbed Path or the "practice of poses" is a mere eighth of the work to be done on the way to enlightenment. And depending on who you talk to, the poses were designed mainly to prepare the body for long periods of meditation, or to give 13-year-old boys a way to release some energy while studying to become yogis.

Unfortunately, for many modern Westerners, it's easy to get caught up in the physical practice—a lot of people think that becoming flexible is the goal of yoga. Now to be clear, I don't think there is anything wrong with asana practice or with using it as the stepping-stone toward a more well-rounded practice. It is a fairly accessible format for the modern-day yogi and has allowed me to begin inching my way along the 8-limbed-path.

In fact, there are ways to use the asana practice in order to advance oneself toward expanded consciousness. The practice on the mat is the first place a lot of us begin to feel aware for the first time. It can be a huge wake-up call for a lot of people. Just gaining body awareness, something many modern people lack, can be a necessary step. After the body awareness comes the breath awareness, which can initially enable you to feel more present in the moment.

This moment-to-moment presence, which can take years to cultivate, is the main goal of your work on the mat--not to put your leg behind your head or to hold handstand for ten minutes. While the body does become toned and supple as a result of years of practice, it should be considered a by-product (albeit a nice one) of the fourth step (asana) on the way to the eighth step (samadhi or self-realization).

I can greatly appreciate the modern-day application of asana because it brought me to the path of yoga. But after awhile, we have to make that next step. We have to accept that the ancient science of yoga aims at a much bigger goal than standing on our head. And that goal, of course, is Self-Realization.

Compassion for the Self

I think that as yoga practitioners and teachers, we are hyper-aware of the way we are treating others. There is a lot of giving of the self: we think about Karma Yoga and how to incorporate it into our regular practice, we willingly stay late after class to discuss difficulties that others are having, we consider ourselves eco-friendly—eating, cleaning, shopping and commuting in ways that we consider kinder to the earth, we try to think before we speak maximizing the compassion we can offer to our spouses and children...

But what about compassion towards oneself?

Frequently when I stumble upon this discussion while reading yoga books, I fly right through it. I often think to myself that I have no problem with loving myself. I think that if anything, I might even have too much compassion for myself. I really surprised myself yesterday with the berating I gave myself upon spilling some oil. It was as though out of nowhere a reservoir of anger bubbled up to the surface and spewed out of my mouth. I said some things that I would never say to anyone else—and over some spilled oil?

Part of my path of yoga is to freely admit and accept my faults.  But am I overly admitting my downfalls? and rather than kindly accepting them and working to love them equally with my strengths, am I using them to ultimately put myself down further?

In the Buddhist philosophy, the word Bhavana translates as cultivation or development, but can be combined with another word to mean the cultivation of that thing.

Karuna Bhavana is the developing of compassion—true compassion, not sympathy or pity.
Metta Bhavana is the cultivation of unconditional love.

In our everyday yogic approach to life—seeking to maximize compassion and unconditional love for others—can we extend the same insights to our own selves? Can we practice metta-karuna-bhavana toward our faults as well as our gifts?

Control

I have a tendency to be slightly controlling. Or so I thought until reading Judith Lasater's chapter on Control in her book Living Your Yoga. Turns out I have some control issues on which to work.

For instance—letting go of situations that don't go my way—not my strong suit. Case and point: Today I missed the post office closing by thirty seconds, popped my bike tire on the way home, and fretted about my continuing difficulty in finding a job. I desperately want to control these things. And not only that, but I tend to latch onto them—things that are completely impermanent and small-picture—and I'm still thinking about them seven hours later.

Here's a couple gems of wisdom from Judith that I should keep in mind as I try to to control my lack of control.

"Control is our attempt to keep at arm's length our feelings of being out of control. It springs from that fear that unhappiness and death will overwhelm us." (p. 58)

Ah, that tricky death again!

"The more we try to control our world, the less control we have. The more we are willing to let go of control and simply stay present with what is, the more control we have." (p. 57)

This is the ultimate truth for me.  I take so much satisfaction in the routines of my life that when trouble arises, I instantly cling to what I imagine in my mind to be "better." 

But of course that is a mind game! A simple matter of grass is always greener.

The true practice of life is not about controlling one's surroundings to provide a safe environment in which to live, but rather adapting to possibilities and opportunities for practice with which we are presented. Through this practice of life, ultimately we are living out each present moment one at a time.

Thinking about Dying

In the famous words of the Flaming Lips, "Everyone you know, someday, will die."

This piece of information is nothing new, profound, or shocking, but at the same time it's also pretty easy to avoid thinking about. As humans we are extremely attached to things in general and especially people in our lives. And we're attached to living.

But why? Is it because we don't know what it's like to be dead? Well, believers in reincarnation would say that we do know what it's like to be dead and that's why we want to avoid it. Dying, that is. Because through dying we will make our way to being born again? And doing this all over again? Does it boil down to a fear of the unknown? Or is it simply that we're extremely into living—the act of being alive is so tangible, so present that we cannot detach ourselves from its grasp?

I don't have any answers as to the particulars of our attachment to life and avoidance of death. But I think that one way to approach this fear is by thinking about it. A lot. I've started trying to spend a few moments everyday thinking about the fact that I will die. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in fifty years. I don't think it's morbid or scary—I think it's realistic.

And then on top of that, I try think about the fact that "everyone I know, someday, will die."
That includes Mom, Dad, Shannon, Logan, Tim, Colleen, Laura, and on and on...

This mind training can be associated with many of the concepts we work on in the yoga path—impermanence, perspective, attachment/detachment, present moment, mindfulness, fear, suffering—and I like to consider it just another of the useful tools I picked up along the way. If you have a meditation practice, maybe consider using the first moment or two to commit to the idea that you will die. And then that your parents and siblings and children and lovers will all die too. You could also do it just before you go into Savasana or maybe as you blank out on the tram or when you wake up in the morning. Maybe by exploring the fear that surrounds your ideas about death you can enjoy a level of peace around death that was never present before. Or maybe not, and then you have something to work toward.

Listen to Do you Realize by The Flaming Lips on youtube

 

Perspective

I have been talking a lot about perspective in my classes lately.  Because of its versatility, it's a pretty easy topic to apply to yogic philosophy and ideas. You can refer to perspective in terms of the physical practice—for instance, inversions: teachers are often suggesting to change your perspective by turning your world upside down. 

Then there's the perspective gained through meditation—simply taking a moment out of your day to try and quiet your thoughts is a way to gain instant perspective on the state of your mind. Or possibly more specifically, your "monkey mind" a turn-of-phrase which refers to the never-ending chatter that becomes evident the second you try to turn off the mind.

Today I am referring to the perspective gained by attending a new class. After six years of yoga practice, three of those years being very persistent in daily practice, I often feel as though I "have it down." Just writing that made me see how ridiculous it is--yoga takes a lifetime of practice! Nonetheless, the ego is strong-willed and at times I feel quite confident about my yoga asana abilities.

This morning I attended an Anusara Level I class.

After six years, it's pretty easy for me to assume that a Level I class is something I can enjoy with relative ease. This class proved me wrong. It's been years since I've had a teacher so 'on my case' about every pose I performed—Downward Dog, Tadasana, and Bhujangasana to name but a few—I seemed to be doing each and every one of them incorrectly—or less than perfectly is probably a more precise definition. As the class went on and more and more corrections were suggested to me, I started to lose confidence in my knowledge of these beginning level poses—my notions about alignment and energy flow were being greatly shaken.

But I had committed myself, before class even started, to keeping my ego in check and approaching this new style with an open mind. I dutifully performed every correction given (whether or not I felt it was right) and was attentive to the teacher's yogic ideas.

I can't say for sure that anything about the class changed the way that I'll teach or practice in the future, but I can say that my willingness to change my perspective about the way to teach a yoga class or to take a yoga class is a step forged ahead in my own path. Trying new methods of anything—be it yoga,  breathing, eating, living!—is bound to form new neural pathways in the brain, making it easier for us to be willing to try out a change in perspective again.

http://www.anusara.com/

Contentment in Action

After my first post, I was patting myself on the back for my clear demonstration of wisdom. I was doing this while taking a shower and admittedly, lacking mindfulness. I proceeded to drop the big bottle of Dr. Bronners Peppermint Oil Soap (with the lid open) which hit the floor and emitted a blast of soap (the minty kind), which went directly into my eye.

I openly invite anyone needing work on contentment in the present moment to try it with Dr. Bronner's in their eye.

The Beginning

This blog has begun at the request of my friends and students Pearl and Erika. I had the pleasure of teaching yoga this summer in my hometown Omaha, NE, where I gained the dedication of several students. Now living in Minneapolis, MN, but still loyal to my Omaha roots, I would like to use this blog to post my personal ideas about the path of yoga for the hometown crowd. I intend to post at least one class a week, if not more. All different styles will be represented because that's the way I practice myself. I am open to requests and can offer tutorials as well, based on things I've learned over the years. Please, send your ideas my way!

Oh, I should explain my blog title.

On the path of Raja Yoga,  there are eight achievable limbs before the final step samadhi, which is Self-realization. The second limb is niyamas which is defined as inner observances, or more easily put, individual conduct—the way one should act toward oneself. The second niyama is santosha, or contentment. Contentment with one's situation in life, contentment in this moment, contentment with your Hatha yoga practice—you name it, it's applicable.

In her book Bringing Yoga to Life Donna Farhi, an incredible author on the subject of yoga, writes on the subject of santosha:

" We find that all that we need lies within the content of the moment, even if that moment is difficult" (p 31)

This is a lesson with which I think we all struggle daily—just being "okay" with our current situation. Not striving, not yearning, just being. So, this blog will serve to serve you in your present (contented) moment.

Namaste,
Gabrielle