Spring is a good time to be thinking about clearing out old stuff. This can be literal like your closet, or more figurative like the baggage you carry around in your body and mind. In yogic philosophy, there is a concept called avidya. Avidya loosely translates as “incorrect perception” or “misunderstanding.” One result of avidya is samskara, which means the habituation of actions that no longer prove accurate (another way of saying: it is your baggage). The idea is that as we move through our lives we pick up behaviors that seem to work pretty well at the time. Maybe we learn to ignore the guy on the street who is trying to talk to us because we have had a bad experience. Or maybe you were yelled at by your parents as a kid, so you yell at your kids. Maybe we have decided never to try headstand again because we once fell out of it.
As we all change and evolve, we may remain stuck in these old behaviors and patterns. Yoga practice is said to help clear avidya through cleaning out the closets of our bodies, minds, and energetic bodies. This baggage is like stuff that we no longer need but keep holding onto.
Here are some types of avidya:
- Raga: Wanting without needing.
- Asmita: the ego. Insisting on being right. Reveling in another being wrong. Having to be better than others.
- Dvesa: Rejecting people or experiences because of prior experience.
- Abhinivesa: Fear.
Any of these sound familiar? I know that I definitely fall into all of them at different times. So how does yoga help? Well, yoga practice is, at its core, practice at steadying the mind, finding your center, detoxifying your mind and body, and making the body and mind more healthy and whole. Yoga helps us to block out distractions and focus our energy. Yoga helps us to concentrate and conserve energy. Those types of avidya up there are really just drains on our energy. The more focused and calm we become, the less we need to be right all the time. The more content we are with who we are, the more content we are with what we already have. The more centered and healthy we are, the less fearful we are.
Most importantly, yoga practice is the practice of being present. Focusing on exactly what is happening around us right now, breath, by breath, by breath, by breath. I am reminded of a mantra I use when I am feeling like my mind keeps getting ahead or behind me. Inhale, “I am,” Exhale, “here now.” Simply say those words to yourself as you breathe and see what happens.
We all have baggage. We all carry around stuff we no longer need and it is not likely that any of us can get rid of it all at once. However, think about what you carry around. Anything in there you don’t want? How about an old resentment? Maybe you are still angry at someone over something that happened a long time ago. Maybe you had a conversation with someone and you wished you said something that you didn’t or the other way around. It will be different for each and every one of us but I for one, am going to do some spring cleaning.
Simply put, yoga practice is tapas, or burning impurities. We engage our locks, lift old stuff up into the fire in the center of the body (solar plexis area), fuel the fire with the breath, and burn up all that stuff we don’t want. Now, of course, more stuff goes in when you burn other stuff off, but what if you could replace it with good stuff, prana-rich, healthy stuff? That is the whole point! If you can clear out some of the no-longer-useful stuff, you have more space for good stuff. So, in your home, get rid of that old microwave and get a used juicer on e-bay! That means less microwaved meals and more healthy juice. Who knows where this could go! Now to be clear, I am not advocating any one thing, but I am advocating all of us getting empowered by good choices, clearing out old junk, and doing more yoga. This can spill into all aspects of our lives. Let me know if anything cool happens here. I am already “fired up” just thinking about it.