Yoga Is…

Yoga is about finding balance. In fact, the word yoga is taken from the Sanskrit word “yug” which means “to yoke” or “to join” – joining together of two equal but opposite things or ideas into a balanced whole. The integration of the mind & the body, the past & the present, masculine & feminine, strength & flexibility, to name but a few.

Many people have a tendency to equate the practice of yoga with the goal of placing the body in pretzel-like positions and contortions when in actuality it’s not at all about goals or learning to tie our bodies in knots.

” Before you learn to stand on your head, you need to learn to stand on your own two feet.”
Swami Satchidananda

Balanced in the present moment. Yoga is a process, not a goal. It’s not about trying to look like a picture in some book, but about learning about your own body and cultivating that mind-body connection. The physical is a reflection of the mental and spiritual. When the output of action does not balance with the input, we experience stress. Hatha yoga attenpts to bring the input and output into balance. We, as human beings, exist as a polarity. This is epitomized by the very word Hatha. “Ha” means Sun in Sanskrit – Heat/Light/Energy/Creativity/Action/Passion “Tha” means Moon in Sanskrit – Cool/Reflective/Receptive/Intuitive/Accepting

We move from one extreme to the other. The process of yoga is to lead us into balance and harmony of this polarity. The asanas or postures are a discipline for the body, exerting effects on the mind. Positive effects not only on the mind and the emotions, but on the muscles, organs and glands as well. They have a balancing effect upon the nervous system, making us better able to deal with stress. They increase our flexibility, improve our circulation, strengthern our muscles, aid in digestion, support stress-related conditions and improve our breathing capacity and the elasticity of our lungs.

The health community has realized that a high-impact aerobic work-out creates more injuries than benefits – in the knees, low backs and ankles. Yoga lasts for a liftime unlike many sports that we may need to abandon as we age. But the benefits far exceed enhancing our physical health and mental activity to promoting emotional balance and spiritual awareness. It provides a way to feel peaceful in this chaotic world in which we live.

Yoga is neither political or religious. Anyone can practice it regardless of age, sex or physical condition. Yoga evolved initially as an oral tradition which was taught one on one so that the teaching was passed directly from teacher to student. Today, there are many fine books and tapes about yoga which are very useful whether you are a beginner or a continuing student. But a teacher can provide that personal guidance and instruction that you may not find in the pages of a book. You make your own choice as to what will work best for you. And if you do decide that you would like to try a yoga class, please utilize our directory of teachers. There you will find representatives of a variety of styles of yoga from the strengthening yet relaxing focus of classical yoga, to the dynamic pace of astanga yoga and the alignment-oriented requirements of an Iyengar class. Please feel free to make inquiries of any of the teachers so that you can learn more.

Practicing yoga and meditation is not about withdrawing from the world, it’s about how to embrace life more fully – how to accomplish more without getting stressed in the process. It is the process of joining the ordinary with the extraordinary during our daily life. Yoga is a tool for learning to notice and challenge our perceived limitations, giving us the opportunity to suspend our beliefs about what we can and cannot do.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

The above article was written by Christine, a certified yoga teacher in the Denver area and was originally published in 2009.

Present Moment Practice by Bethany Doepke, YTOC Correspondent

Why do we practice yoga? What sustains us through every resistance, every episode of mind negativity, every bout with the chattering ego? Is it not the desire—often unarticulated, sometimes buried deep beneath everyday consciousness—to be whole, to be truly ourselves, to radiate the energy into which we sometimes, joyously, tap?

In fact, is that not solely the goal of yoga, but the goal of life—to tap into the source of pure energy, and allow that energy to play through us as if we were harps upon which the Divine played it’s song?

Yes! Yes, we cry!

Of course, on tired days (and perhaps this is one), wouldn’t we simply like to be free of our exhausting neurotic impulses: our fears and obsessions, our blind spots and constrictions?

Of course. Of course we would.

Even for the experienced yogi, however, the path to this freedom is subtle and difficult to discern. A beautifully executed asana is not the path if the mind is full of its own clutter. The thoughts, comments, judgments, and reactions that make up the mind’s clutter are the roadblocks to wholeness and freedom because they are not of the present moment, and here is the key,
here is the subtlety: the present moment. It is only in the present moment that true life, true freedom, occurs. It is only in the present moment that we have any real power.

Thoughts masquerade as the present moment because they occur in a slice of consciousness we call “now.” But actually, thoughts always have their reference point, their true origin and location, in the past or the future. It is not thoughts, but experiences, that happen in the present moment. Experiences are feelings and sensations that are always locatable in your body—your hamstring suddenly seizing in resistance, a piercing shock of embarrassment as you fall out of a pose others are holding, a sluice of sudden energy through your spine in a deep backbend. It is when the mind comments upon or judges the experience that we are taken out of the present
moment because all of the comments and judgments have their reference points somewhere else: in a comparison point against which this experience transcends or falls short. The profound experience of wholeness, however, comes when we ALLOW the experience to be whole in itself—not better or worse than another experience we have already had, or wish to have in the
future.

Seeking to unite the ancient consciousness-evolving practices of the East with the psychological insights of the West, John Ruskan writes, in his book, Emotional Clearing, that “while the mind is always either in the past or the future, the body is always in the moment because of its feeling
nature, and feeling is inherently in the moment. Being in the moment is a condition that we should strive to develop, because life is taking place in the moment. When locked in the mind, in expectations of the future based on the past, we do not confront and experience life.”

It must be admitted, however, that staying in the direct experience of the present moment is not easy. The mind has a way of asserting itself so convincingly that we are always believing ourselves to be just on the verge of real truth as we listen to its commentary. The mind is a persistent companion, a really loquacious “friend,” and just because we become conscious of the wish for it to pipe down (and perhaps, on an unconscious level, we’ve become rather comfortable with its noise), does not mean it will actually comply, and be quiet. It’s only means of survival, after all, is it’s own voice. It has every desperate stake in continuing its monologue, with you as it’s rapt audience.

Chip Hartranft, a modern interpreter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, points out Patanjali’s recognition “that one of the most primary internal forces in a human being is the inclination toward selfhood. Self-making has the effect of organizing the shifts contents of consciousness into a seamless pseudo-reality that seems to unfold over time.

” . . .However, when consciousness becomes truly motionless, these appearances of permanence and continuity break down . . . [and] the illusory reality represented in consciousness becomes transparent as body and mind grow deeply still.”

Furthermore, Hartranft points out, “one’s sense of time becomes spacious, with consciousness sensing many more individual events than before, and beginning to perceive it’s own workings in more detail. What had seemed like a smooth flow—the reality of the phenomenal world—can now be seen as the flickering of microphenomena arising and vanishing with unimaginable
subtlety . . . As [the] illusion falls apart, the self and the world reveal themselves to be nothing but a stream of rapidly changing events . . . In this light, the dramas of consciousness no longer seem real, nor do they propel one any longer toward thoughts or actions that bring more suffering.”

The only hope, then, for dispensing with the reality of our exhausting and, essentially, false dramas, is to acquaint ourselves with a more steady, more present companion. This companion is the breath. The breath is remarkably subtle and quiet, and yet it is always there—no, it is always HERE, right HERE, precisely in the NOW. The more you know the breath, the more you
unite your actions with the breath, the more subtle will be your awareness of the present moment, and the more power you will have to dive into the present moment’s depths, and see the true nature of reality.

The Yoga-Sutra reminds us that “a disciplined inner life is the most direct path to happiness.” Interpreting ancient teachings to a modern audience, Chip Hartranft explains that “our bodyminds can know their true nature by letting themselves gravitate towards effortless sitting and breathing. And our attention can be stabilized, with perception coming to rest in the
present moment and clarifying to the point where the unity of all things is known beyond argument or reservation.”

In other words, eventually, the breath will take you deep enough that the mind will no longer follow. In this place, you will find truth and freedom, recognizing that truth and freedom are one and the same, and furthermore, that the mind, in itself, has access to neither.

Put simply, any time the goal is freedom, the breath can be your guide. In yoga, in meditation, in a stressful situation, at dinner with your partner, in the car with your kids, the breath is your portal into present moment experience, and present moment experience is where you find your wholeness and freedom. Hartranft reminds us, however, that it is not in sitting and focusing on the breath that the trouble occurs, “but in overcoming the well-established mental and physical habits that already produce suffering in our lives. These habits of perception and behavior cost us dearly, yet we cannot help but hold them dear, for they ARE us. That is, we have all
developed seemingly tried-and-true patterns of thinking and reacting, crystallizing into stories about ourselves and the world, and we cling to them as our identity and home.”

While clinging to the noise of these stories and beliefs may be our inclination, we must never underappreciate the profundity of the breath’s depth and silence. The breath leads us to a place that confirms that the present moment requires no judge or narrator. The mind, protecting its
very existence, would only have us think so.

Quotes taken from The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, by Chip Hartranft and Emotional Clearing, by John Ruskan

 

This article was originally published in 2010.

A story from Suzi Cameron on finding her first yoga teaching job through a YTOC Teaching Opportunities email …

As my Yoga Teacher Training was ending, I received an email from a fellow trainee who had seen a post for a teacher opening on the YTOC website.  I decided to apply, never dreaming that I would actually get a job as new and inexperienced as I was.  After applying, I was called in for an interview and much to my surprise, I was offered the job.  Talk about being on cloud 9…wow!  It was probably one of the most exciting days of my life!  Not only  to be able to share not only my new found knowledge but also to be able to share my love for yoga.  Of course, I went home and immediately joined YTOC and have never looked back.  Although that first class as a paid instructor was SO scary, it was so wonderful,  invigorating and reinforced my decision about training and joining YTOC.

New Year’s Resolutions and Self Acceptance

At the beginning of each year, we take great care and effort to come up with something to improve and change about ourselves. Why? We could probably answer by saying we do it in order to be better, which in turn we think will make us happier.

If only we were thinner, or looked younger, or were in better physical shape, or ate better, then we’d be more lovable and fit better into society.

But what if we just simply accepted ourselves just as we are today, in this moment, in our all humanness?

Accepting ourselves just as we are today, in this body, in our experience today, is the surest route to our own internal happiness.

Conditional love, based on what we look like, what we wear, what we might do for a living, is hollow and temporary. It does not truly satisfy.

We all yearn to be loved just as we are, unconditionally.

 

How do we find this unconditional love? Not by looking outward.

We find it by accepting ourselves as we are, right now, in this moment, opening our own hearts fully to the Love that knows no attachments and is already within us.

 

This Love is available at all times in the present moment, but we are not in the present moment. We are spending it in the past, reliving events and our thoughts, sometimes repeatedly. Or we are living it in the future, thinking of all we have “to-do” or should do.

We abandon the present moment and the joy it holds. We seek acceptance and love as if it is something we acquire, like a house, a job, or a degree.

This very seeking outside of ourselves is what keeps us separate and always looking, never finding. It keeps us from accepting ourselves in this present moment. We feel as if we are never “good enough” and there is something else we must do or acquire to be lovable.

 

How do we stay fully in the present moment? How do we accept ourselves just as we are?

 

  • We stop looking to the future and what think we need to do or have in order to be happy.
  • We instead fully accept our life in this present moment, without resistance, without analysis, interpretation, or trying to control it.
  • We observe each thought, emotion, sensation, or feeling we might have about what is going on without judgment.
  • If it is difficult to accept what is, then we simply acknowledge our resistance to acceptance, and just let it be what it is.

 

With this deep acceptance, the part of us that observes is itself free from resistance, knowing that accepting is not the same as enjoying something. It is an awareness that life is just as it is and we are just as we are. We rest within the perfection of our imperfection.

copyright S.M.Kline 2015

This article was originally published in January of 2015.