We all have a choice on how we feel. This secret the world seems to have us forgetting. From an early age we’re taught that feeling good comes from doing the right thing for our parents, performing well at school, working hard or buying the right products or services.
There is nothing wrong with performing well, working hard or treating ourselves to beautiful experiences that make us feel good. The challenge is not to fall for thinking any one of these things are the cause of our happiness.
Happiness is an internal state. A state you generate yourself when you clear away the distraction and noise around you. When you meditate, you’re getting your body and mind in this state and it feels great.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Of course it takes practice and sometimes it can be frustrating because it seems like we have no control. Our mind and our body let us down. They mind takes its own course and leads us down a rabbit hole. Stick with it.
You are not your thoughts.
You have the choice to step back and observe your mind rather than be consumed by it. This is meditation. This is what we are all working towards when we commit to stick with regular yoga and meditation.
When we understand that the mind creates a form of energy. An energy that attracts and brings us the kinds of experiences we repeatedly dwell on, we realise that through meditation we are able to create experiences, rather than let life serve them up without us having a say in the matter. We begin to live with more control over the life we live and the experiences and people we let in.
Let me know if you think this is true or not…in your experience.
When someone says what style of yoga they are usually referring to the modern stylistic forms of yoga that have flourished in recent years. Styles refer to things like “Flow Yoga”, “Bikram(hot) Yoga”, “Yin Yoga”. It is probably more appropriate to refer to these as brands or trademarks. Trends even.
Paths of Yoga
It is often a good idea to consider the various paths involved in Yoga as they are laid out traditionally:
Practices that purify the body. Usually through Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathing) but also meditation is a form of purifying the mind. We are practicing the techniques of hatha yoga each week in class.
Discipline and selfless work to achieve the state of yoga. Working hard and working for the benefit of others is a way of practicing this kind of Yoga.
The use of devotional chants to achieve the state of union (yoga). Traditionally this involves the use of the various names for God. Many people also practice Bhakti Yoga by taking an appreciative and heart felt. This is Kirtan which Inner Journey’s hosts once a term and you are welcome to come along to.
The science of controlling the physical and mental states of being. This is done through asana (physical practices), pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation). We are doing this when we practice Yoga but we soon discover that gaining control over the body and mind are not as simple as we thought and this takes discipline and comitment.
The yoga of knowledge and understanding of the self. This is a more philosophical path. It can be helped by reading and learning, but also by overcoming the narrow stereotypes that we have formed for ourselves or that have been formed for us by others.
Traditions of Yoga
There are also many traditions of Yoga. In the beginners course you are learning from a tradition called Satyananda Yoga. This tradition encompasses a wide range of the yogic paths listed above. I enjoy it because it has such a range of different ways of working towards the same goal which is realising our highest potential and being complete and content with ourselves.
You’ve taken the first step in learning how regular practice can transform your life by giving more control over the way you feel with only a few simple techniques.
With a commitment to attending class each week, you’ll discover something very important about how you can control your state of body and mind. This is the reason the course is not open to casual attendance.
In Yoga we keep shifting our mind and body back to the present moment regardless of what we find there. We do this when it’s easy, we are relaxed and comfortable, but more importantly we do this when it’s difficult and the mind and body are distracted, tired or uncomfortable.
Over the course of the next 9 weeks you will have days where you’d rather take the night off and do something else with your time. Your responsibility to work and family will challenge the commitment you’ve made to yourself when you enrolled in the course.
From the outset, I’ll challenge you to follow through with your commitment to yourself through Yoga and Meditation. Give priority to the course and you’ll be giving priority to yourself and your sense of health and wellbeing.
Stick with a weekly class and not only will you get the most out of the money you have paid, you will also realize how balance does not involve standing still, but is a constant correction back to the stable and strong centre that lies within each of us. On good days and bad.
Have a fantastic week and I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.
Most of the time we live in the past of the future. In the past we find the memories and experiences we consider to have made us who we are. Even recent events can surface to draw our attention backwards. Whilst making dinner we happen on something we did earlier that day. This memory triggers a scene that plays over in our minds as we chop carrots. Some days we get furious as we chop carrots thinking about the things we should have said to the person who riled us, let us down, offended or somehow made things more challenging.
As we play this story over again, we chop carrots more earnestly. Our grip tightens. We think on things we should have said, the things we might have done to show them. Take that. Yeah…I wish I’d have said that…
Briefly, momentarily we return to the present and pick up a new carrot…
The mind wanders again, this time into the future. To all the things we might say to that person tomorrow. To set things straight. We may imagine talking to them, showing them how offended, riled up, or otherwise let down they’ve left us feeling.
We can’t avoid these incursions of the mind back to the future or off into the past. For all of us too, there are people who fire us up in some way. Regular practice of Yoga and meditation will limit the impact of these incursions. Will limit the hold they have on us and release the past and future, leaving us free to return more frequently to cutting carrots. After all the carrots have done nothing wrong to us. They deserve a present and engaged chopper, a present engaged parent to serve them up, and a peaceful home in which to share them.
And the source of these things is nowhere but the present moment. The moment we’re in right now. Every time.
The source of a more empowered future and less inhibiting past lies with our our practice of Yoga and Meditation. Through practice we equip ourselves to take up residence here in the present moment and to remain here despite the challenges offered up by an imagined future. As we continue to create joy and stillness within the present moment we encounter more joy and stillness in our dealings with the future. When it finally comes along.
We all know the effort it takes to commit to a course of yoga. Here are some reasons why Yoga is best served with commitment and regularity:
Our Body Responds
Some people say they are not flexible enough for Yoga but lack of flexibility is actually a great reason to do yoga. Many people find that over time and with a commitment to practice, the body responds by becoming more flexible. This flexibility is accompanied by a change in posture. The effects of the practices are felt through a more open and upright posture and a firmer and more balanced posture. This opening is mirrored in our attitude and approach towards the world around us and this expansion is sustained by regular practice. A commitment to yourself
Yoga is an ancient tradition of purification, designed to rid the body of toxins and the mind of unhelpful thoughts and worries. Each time we practice we are cleansing ourselves of the things that don’t serve us or the thoughts that keep us cycling in old patterns of worry or struggle. As we practice yoga, we are clearing away the old to make space for the new. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, this happens over time and not all at once. By committing to a regular practice we are honouring and paying respect to ourselves in this mental and physical cleansing practice.
A Reference Point
Practicing yoga regularly gives us a reference point for a calm and relaxed state. Each time we practice yoga, it relaxes us. This is why we do it, but we all know how easy it is to become tense and anxious once we get back to the grind of daily life. By regularly tuning in to ourselves and revisiting this relaxed state, we are giving ourselves a reference point to a new way of being and over time we’re reminded of this more and more in daily life. This reference can help us compare the changes in our body and mind over time. From week to week we notice how easy or difficult relaxation can be, depending on anything from the weather to the demands of our family or work, but over time we also discover ourselves gravitating to a more relaxed and calm state. Distractions Abound
It is easy to grow distracted, even by things we think are good for us. There are so many diets, vitamins, health foods and exercises out there promising a better life. The media flood us with solutions ranging from relaxing holidays to spa treatments or radical dietary changes. We are told these will ensure we feel great and look amazing. Yoga reminds us that the only thing that keeps us feeling great and looking amazing lies within each of us. All we need to do is remember this and regularly return to this inner state of calm and peaceful abiding.
I look forward to sharing term 3 of the beginners course with you if you chose this commitment to yourself in the practice of Yoga. This term we discover the invigorating, yet balancing effects of Surya Namaskara which is a 12 pose sequence of practices constituting a complete practice in itself, and a great way to release tension and build energy.
San Kalpa is a yogic word that roughly translates as positive affirmation. We chose this ourselves and we keep this personal affirmation until we start to notice an effect in our lives. Each of the weeks we do Yoga Nidra in class we hold our attention briefly on our San Kalpa and here are some of the reasons we do this…
Yoga’s Internalising Process
We practice Yoga so that we can calm our mind and settle the inner space of our body. In doing this we face many distracting thoughts and restlessness. The ongoing practice of yoga and meditation gradually stills the chattering mind, calms the restless, tense body and leaves us with a sense of space, balance and ongoing wellbeing.
It’s within this space that we begin to be more deliberate about the the kinds of thoughts we’d rather have and within this space that we begin to affirm and take responsibility for a new reality for ourselves that is based in this new way of thinking.
Here are some guidelines for picking and sticking with a San Kalpa.
Use the Present tense
Us the present tense for your affirmation. Phrases like “I am..” or “I have…” are good. Avoid being to distant like “someday I will…” or “soon I will have…”
Keep it positive
Affirm your reality don’t deny it. Avoid phrases that start with “I don’t have any…” or “my pain is gone”. Use instead phrases that involve what you do want. “I have an abundance of energy, vitality and wellbeing”
Don’t want anything
Saying things like “I want…” can be a trap. The mind can create more wanting in response to this kind of affirmation. “I want more money” can turn into the experience of “wanting more money” rather than the experience of “abundance and plenty”. The mind simply delivers what you ask of it. Ask for “I want no more drama in my life and it will give you the experience of “wanting no more drama in your life”, which actually equates to… You guessed it… more drama. Of course if things are a little dull you might want just that, but wanting is no way to be.
Picture and feel your San Kalpa
Use emotive and powerful words or better still, cultivate an image or sensation. This is so that you imagination and experience what it is like for this to be true for you. Engage all of your senses so that you imagine what it is like to have a relaxed and flexible body an abundance of energy and vitality or even an abundance of money, if this is what you choose.
Remember in yoga we see the experience of life as being intimately dependent on the quality of our inner space. We all have the choice to keep looking to the outside world to explain why we feel the way we do or we can practice a new sense of responsibility for our experience and begin to create that experience ourselves.
This is the inner journey that Yoga and meditation brings on in us.