“There are many definitions of yoga,
-yoga as the movement from one point to another, higher one
-yoga as the bringing together, the unifying of two things
-yoga as action with undivided, uninterrupted attention
These definitions of yoga have one thing in common: the idea that something changes. This change must bring us to a point where we have never been before. That is to say, that which was impossible becomes possible; that which was unattainable becomes attainable; that which was invisible can be seen.” Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga
It has been my experience that the practice of yoga changes people. It changes them physically, emotionally and energetically. Interestingly, most people start yoga with one goal in mind and then often the goal changes or seemingly disappears.
The yoga practice that we do at O2 is based on the principles of Vinyasa Krama. Now the word vinyasa is wildly overused. Many people describe their yoga class with the word vinyasa. In the context of O2 Yoga, vinyasa means to place carefully and deliberately; krama means with direction. So vinyasa krama is not just to be disciplined and specific for it’s own sake, rather to direct your attention towards your own path. Your path or dharma is not the same as destiny or fate. It is more about your own moral, ethical or spiritual plan.
What does that mean in the context of our modern lives? Think about what you are doing and why. I believe that we have become a culture where everything is seen as a given. You go to school, then to college, you get a job, start a family, work yourself to death, then retire and finally enjoy your time. That is not the only path. In fact, there are many options and I feel it is important to actually think about not only what you want your goal to be but what steps you need to take to get there.
When I was younger, I found myself in a relationship with a person who was very controlling. He needed to have control over seemingly minor things like the kind of dishes we had or the plants we grew in the garden. I didn’t feel it was worth fighting over so little by little, I let him control almost everything until one day I woke up and looked around me and found nothing that felt like me. I had slowly eroded myself to the point where I didn’t feel I had any strong opinion or direction about anything. The point is, every step you take, every decision you make really does matter, even if it seems minor at the time. Every choice you make, or more often sometimes the lack of making a choice can lead you either towards or away from your path.
What is important to you?
A few years ago, I had just become vegan. My family and I were in the airport getting ready to fly to Mexico. It was 5 am and we all were exhausted. I was feeling trepidation about finding food in Mexico as it was already a challenge here in the US. My son Deven, who was then five, and I went into the coffee shop in the airport to get something to eat. I was starving and was hoping to find peanut butter for a bagel and all they had was cream cheese. I said to Deven, “oh forget it, I can’t do this, it’s too hard. I am just going to get cream cheese.” He grabbed my hands and looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t give up mom. You can do it. I will help you.” You see, he knew how important this was to me. He knew that this was more than just a choice about what to eat that moment but a choice that was about my path and he saw me getting beaten down. I put the cream cheese back and never looked back.
Now this incident to you might seem trivial but I think it is more about how the smallest things can chip away at what we think is important. I have a friend who had a baby who needed to stay in the hospital after she was born. The nurses saw how exhausted she was and said, “listen honey, why don’t you just sleep through the night, we can give the baby formula.” My friend said she got this a lot. She was exhausted and she would have loved to sleep but she also really thought it was important to breastfeed her baby, especially there in the hospital. She had to push back against the pressure and the trivializing of what she thought was important.
The Real World
In teacher training the other day, we talked about how many of us had been made to feel like our pursuit was trivial. Teaching yoga, or practicing yoga is just a hobby they say. It is certainly not a “real job”. How many of our parents and teachers told us that we needed to pursue things in college that would lead to a real job. Art, music, dance, woodworking, writing, (and the list goes on) are all pursuits that will not allow us to survive in the real world. Breast feeding, traveling, homeschooling, gardening are all after all, inconveniently time-consuming. Convenience and saving time often comes at a price.
If you believe in a certain path, it requires patience, diligence, determination and discipline. Yoga practice is one of the ways that we bring ourselves back, again and again to a clearer mind. Vinyasa krama, to take each step carefully and in the right direction. What is the right direction? Only you know that. Each of us has a unique path. However, many of us never really think about what that might be. We are too busy following the herd and doing everything for the sake of convenience not conviction. What ever it is that you care about, I guarantee you that the path towards it will not be easy or convenient but it will definitely be fulfilling.
A guru is someone who helps you stay on your path. It can be a friend, a pet, a child, a teacher. Staying on your own path requires lots of help from others. Enlist the support of those who you love and trust. You will find the path a lot easier to follow! Peace, Mimi