Yoga Diary /

Category: Spiritual

Most of us are familiar with yoga as a form of physical practice, sometimes a painful one but a good workout nevertheless.  In fact the physical practice of yoga (the asana) that we do in class and in our home is only one small limb of yoga.  There are eight limbs as prescribed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Asana is the third rung on this ladder.  Want to read more about the Eight Limbs? Yoga Journal has a couple of great articles check them out here

The first limb comprises of 5 Yamas relating to ethical conduct.  The second limb has 5 Niyamas relating to self-discipline and spiritual observance and ideally we’d have a good grasp on the first two limbs prior to engaging in the third, Asana.  These limbs do their job by laying strong foundations to lead us toward and through the other five limbs where ultimately we land our minds and bodies at the door to enlightenment.  There’s a lot to take in so for today the lens will focus in on the 3rd Yama, Asteya, the principle of non-stealing.

“To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.37

It’s obvious right?  Stealing: bad.  Not stealing: good.  We can be the Kings of Oversimplification if it means we don’t have to look at how we might possibly be engaging in the less overt acts of stealing but the truth is energetic stealing happens all the time.  Theft, like a stealth mental Ninja, seeks out opportunities to snatch at ideas, thoughts, judgements and time before we even know what’s  happening.  When we want or desire something that is not ours we are engaging in a form of stealing.  How so?  Surely we should be able to want without guilt.  Have goals and aspirations to achieve and fly high in business, relationships, finance, health and wellbeing?  Of course all these things are valid desires but if we focus on the things we don’t yet have, we are stealing value from the things we already do have.

As Rhyanna VL Yoga rolls out its first mentorship programmes the principle of Asteya is being held at the forefront of ethical conduct.  Engaging as both recipient and giver of mentorship really brings home the essence of non-stealing. By giving guidance to new teachers the programme aims to give tools to the recipients so that they can find their own voice/style/method/structure of teaching.  

Rather than just the rote receiving information, regurgitating it and reproducing a replica of what’s already being done.  By the same token, the mentor must stay open to learning too, as everyone has some unique gift to bring to the experience.  If a mentor takes on a role of complete authority by shutting off external suggestions and information it defeats the purpose of an equally shared learning environment.

Here are some other ways that we can engage Asteya during our practice and stop that Ninja in their tracks: 

  1. Be cautious of comparison, concerning yourself with others abilities or lack thereof on the mat is stealing from your own practice.  Do what YOU can to YOUR best ability.
  2. Stay as present as you can while in your practice by following instructions and guidance given, you can get back to your stories and dramas after class. Wandering off mentally takes away or literally steals from the present moment. 
  3. Try to give yourself enough time to get to class.  Arriving on time for your own time is a way to honour the value of that time.  To always be rushing or running late actually steals from it.

 

Helpful links:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-eight-limbs/

http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/The_Ten_Living_Principles_Yamas_and_Niyamas/2410

http://yogisurprise.com/the-five-yamas-of-yoga

Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or just starting out on your yoga journey there’s no doubt you’ve cut the shape of a “Warrior” every time you’ve stepped onto your mat.  The warrior poses a.k.a. Virabhadrasana I, II and III are the cornerstone asanas in many a practice across all styles of yoga.  But what do they mean?  Why do we have fighting associated postures in our peaceful practice?  Who is Virabhadra and why does he show up all the time?

If you are into fantastical tales of magic and mayhem you must read the story of Shiva turning one of his dreadlocks into a fierce warrior (Virabhadra) with flaming eyes and wrath like no tomorrow.  There’s romance, plot twists, murders and revenge.  There’s sorrow, forgiveness and something for everyone whether you like “Days of our Lives” or “Game of Thrones” Hindu Mythology caters for all.  Read the story here….

As with all mythology, questions and answers of morality are at the heart.  We know that yoga is a multilayered practice of which the physical is just one small aspect.  Yet, with the physical we can express many of the deeper layers and tap into the psyche of yoga and the myths that build the practice.  We can become Warriors both on and off the mat when we find our personal representation of Virabhadra who is really the slayer of ego, and all the “stuff” we seek to cut free from.

The biggest physical challenge with the warrior poses is often alignment.  You’ll hear so many cues, directions and miniscule adjustments to make in each pose.  This can make the practice frustrating, destabilising and sometimes annoying.  But here lies the magic.  When you notice what comes up for you in each challenge, particularly in these fierce and strong standing postures you are getting information about what stands in your way.  Your duty then is to be courageous.  Like a Warrior standing ready to strike his opponent.  There may be fear but there is focus.  The ego must drop away.  The stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t do must disappear and we must be grounded in our truth.

Whether you read the full story or not the following 3 points will give you insight into these postures so that you may experience them in a new way, separate from any emotional issue that may arise during the practice.  Virabhadrasana I – Here (complete with vintage image of the late and great Iyengar) the Warrior rises up through the ground.  Building from the base, feet, legs, hips, torso: ACTIVE. Chest pushing forward, shoulders back, arms raised. There is nothing loose, or slack. This form spells “R-E-A-D-Y”.  You are ready and you are strong enough.

Virabhadrasana II – The Warrior, opens out, drawing a sword.  The base is as grounded and strong as before, no wavering, no retreating.  The gaze over the front hand marks its target. And in the back hand is the metaphorical weapon. (Be aware that it is not dropping down towards the ground but holding horizontal, in place.)  Look your “opponent”: your ego, your drama, your story, your fear, dead on.  Here our inner warrior stands for tensity of “F-O-C-U-S” .

Virabhadrasana III – As the Warrior steps up to balance on the front leg he slices the “sword” forward through the air to strike his target.  Cutting through our darkness, the stuff we do and say that keeps us playing small requires balance, skill and strength of character.  We cannot cut through the crap if we don’t acknowledge it exists.  So the most challenging of the 3 postures is also the most rewarding.  Despite the terminology, it doesn’t have to represent violence or anger, striking out or cutting through are courageous acts. As we balance out there on one leg, unwavering we can experience gratitude that our readiness, our aim and our focus have enabled us to “S-T-R-I-K-E” down what holds us back.

Can you see now how the terminology can affect our interpretation and experience?  Warrior I, II and III with all their variations produce a base for meaningful sequences.  All of yoga is entwined with all of life and this is how the light you find in your practice will follow you throughout your journey.

Namaste. Rhy xx

 

Further reading:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4046/Warrior-Pose-Understanding-the-Spiritual-Warrior.html

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/ways-of-the-warrior/

http://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/why-we-practice-the-warrior-poses

Ganesha: such a popular deity.  We see his image everywhere in trinkets and on t-shirts, replicated on impressive (but not always) tattoos and posters.  Many of us are probably aware that this cute elephant with one tusk and a big belly is the lord destroyer or remover of obstacles. And likely many of us are happy to leave it at that. Ganesha’s image lends itself well to vibrant colours making it a go to choice for lovers of kitschy pop art and easy to grasp spiritualism.  Naturally the pre Vedic scriptures where Ganesha first shows up tell a story detailing trials and tribulations layered with symbolism and moral dilemma.  Stories that end up summarised in a tiny nutshell: you want to get past something that’s standing in your way? Ganesha.  

But have you ever wondered what meaning is behind this delightful looking character?  The next time you’re tempted to buy into him as just another lucky charm consider this; in parts of the world where Hinduism is the practiced religion, no building is built, no business is conducted and no praying at the temple is begun without an invocation or offering to Ganesha first.

Ganesha being part elephant has large ears. Ears for listening carefully to all the requests that come his way. 

He only has one tusk the other one was broken off as an act of sacrifice symbolic of not holding onto what’s not needed.

The big belly?  Aside from making him look so cute and cuddly it actually represents the digesting or processing of life’s experiences.  We must take the good with the bad.

He has four arms each holding a different tool. 

In his upper right hand he carries an axe or a sword… To cut away the obstacles which lie on our path.

His upper left hand usually holds a rope or a noose of some sort.  He uses this to capture those who are struggling or falling off their path and to pull them in the right direction.  

In his lower left hand he holds a sweet literally representing the sweetness of a spiritual life and the rewards available to us when we continue along our spiritual journey.

His lower right hand is almost always extended the mudra (gesture) of blessing.  An act of benevolence. 

Just at his feet is a little mouse.  It’s said that this mouse is Ganesha’s chariot but obviously there’s some metaphor at play there because impossible right?  The little mouse represents desire.  When desire is out of control it becomes a ‘pest’.  To keep the ‘pest’ under control it needs to be ‘reined’.  In other words we must keep our worldly desires under control. Doing so will mean less obstacles in our lives.

I love how this can relate to our practice of yoga and also how we can carry all the rich symbolism off the mat and into everyday life.  Here are just three ways:

1.    Listen more.  By listening to all the instructions given during class instead of letting your mind wander off on its own story you might find something clicks that never clicked before.  One minute adjustment cue could be the difference between getting over an obstacle holding you back in a particular pose and just hitting the same wall again.  Off the mat try listening more to the people in your life.  What are they telling you? Can you really hear them without adding your own bit in?

2.    Use the tools Ganesha has to overcome fear and stagnation in your practice.  Fear is not unique, but you are.  Therefore you only have yourself to get over.  Cut through that ego, lasso the struggling part of yourself and haul it back to the path.  Be kind to yourself, add sweetness to your practice enjoy its rewards.  Accept all the blessings that come to you through hardship and ease.  Off the mat it’s pretty much the same; your fears and worries are not unique to you.  The whole world has similar fears and worries.  Only you can get past the shit that holds you back.  There’s no need to punish yourself for perceived failure, remember all things are ultimately blessings.  

3.    The Desire Mouse. Yes, we all have desires.  We want longer legs, stronger abs, more money, less stress and to experience never ending happiness.  But like all emotions happiness is transient.  And the desire to constantly seek it is destructive.  Don’t let your Desire Mouse give you the run around.  Harness it.  Guide it.  Enjoy the happiness when it comes up embrace the frustration, sadness and apathy as they come up.  The class will end soon enough and you can take what you’ve learned on the mat and practice it off as well!

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Are there any obstacles you need to boot out the way? Open up in the comments below!

Namaste. Rhy xx
 

In a traditional sense the practice of devotion seems to lie inextricably with the concepts of religious spirituality. Bhakti yoga also has its roots embedded in religion and worshipping of “the guru” or God. But don’t worry, there’s nothing hocus pocus about it. Quite the opposite in fact, Bhakti is devotion, but more than that it is connection with the Divine within. However you personally interpret this Divine is completely and totally up to you. Divine can be anything: Nature, Source, Universe, One Love, Self, you get the picture. The important thing is that we have something to reach into, be devoted to, to love.

If you are interested in more structured yogic ways of including Bhakti yoga into your experience and spiritual evolution there are practices to help you do this. 

One way is through chanting, Kirtan (translates to “praise”) is the call and response pattern of chanting and is thought to be a way to literally sing yourself into enlightenment. Another option is good old prayer, but not the bedtime ritual of prayer from childhood, nor the “I’m in a crisis, please fix this God” kind of prayer but rather the classical Hindu style of japa – which is the repetition of a Mantra. If singing, banging a tambourine or repeating the same word over and over again isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Some of this stuff can bring up all sorts of resistance, it’s not about judging yourself or others it’s about finding your own personal way to feel the power and joy of devotion.

In fact one of the best ways to begin your practice of Bhakti is to devote time to self-care, self-acceptance and self-love. When we give ourselves over to this practice our hearts can soften. We can eliminate jealousy, mistrust, judgement and unkindness. We can actually connect with the Divine just through speaking kind words to ourselves, by being grateful for the opportunities we have, for living in a country where we are free to express ourselves. For this to be Bhakti it must become a dedicated daily practice, devoting time everyday to filling our own spiritual cup with love, gratitude and praise.

As with any practice discipline is required. For Bhakti to really feed your soul and for the effects of love and devotion to shine through you, it’s important to create a sacred time aside from the hustle of everyday life. If you are a yogi with regular home practice set up then it’s ideal to tag a bit of extra time onto the beginning or the end to practice Bhakti. If you are yet to establish home practice but still want to include Bhakti then first thing in the morning as you wake up or last thing at night just before you fall asleep is just fine too.  

Creating a ritual of devotion needn’t be a huge event. Simply stating an affirmation such as this one everyday could bring about enormous positive change.

I am grateful that I receive the wisdom of the Universe, knowing that I am guided to my highest good in every moment. – Excerpt from the Enneagram prayer of Gratitude

So, over to you now, how do you practice devotion? What rituals do you already have in place to set you up for the day, or settle you down at night?