What is Yoga?

I have decided to quote Ally Hamilton (owner of Yogis Anonymous where I currently teach in Santa Monica with her husband Dorian) this morning because I think that what she had to say is pretty brilliant!

Ally Hamilton on Yoga:

There’s been a lot of conversation within the Los Angeles yoga community of late, about what it is that constitutes yoga.

To quote Georg Feuerstein:

“all the various yogic approaches-and there are many-have the same overall purpose. That purpose is to help the spiritual practitioner transcend the ego-personality, or “lower self”, so that he or she may realize the “higher” Reality, whether this is conceived as the transcendental Self or as the Divine (God or Goddess)……They are all designed to lift the individual out of his or her ordinary perception of, and relationship to, the world.”

Obviously, the practice of yoga involves much more than the 90 minutes a person spends on his or her mat (although if someone is coming for the “workout”, I don’t care because I know over time all the other benefits will seep in!). Here are the eight principal limbs of yoga according to Patanjali:

1. Moral Restraint (yama), comprising nonharming (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), nonstealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacarya), and greedlessness (aparigraha)

2. Discipline (niyama), consisting of purity (shauca), contentment (samtosha), asceticism (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and devotion to the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana)

3. Posture (asana)

4. Breath Control (pranayama)

5. Sense Withdrawal (pratyahara)

6. Concentration (dharana)

7. Meditation (dhyana)

8. Ecstasy (samadhi)

If you are still reading, you are probably either a yoga teacher who doubtless studied these limbs during your teacher training, or a serious practitioner who should possibly consider the teacher training I’m co-teaching this Spring and Summer.

The point is, the physical practice is one-eighth of the equation. If you are not already, but wish to be, serious about your practice, the time will come when you will have to turn your attention to the other seven limbs.

It’s a way of life, a philosophy, a science, and an art. So this conversation about what constitutes yoga is interesting.

If we are simply talking about the physical practice, then any practice that prepares your mind for meditation (which is what the physical practice is intended to do), will suffice. What YOU need to accomplish a quiet mind is PERSONAL.

Some people need a vigorous physical practice (I fall into that category), some people need a more gentle practice. Either way, it is fine.

One trap I think we need to watch out for given our Western culture and its attachment to the external, is attachment to “the tricks”. Now, don’t get me wrong: for many advanced practitioners, an intense exploration of inversions and arm balances is exactly the right prescription to help us delve deeper into the practice of yoga.

Just do your very best not to make your practice ABOUT those tricks, or you will simply be strengthening your ego, not eroding it. By the same token, don’t assume somebody who puts a lot of emphasis on the intense physical practice is somehow not “a real yogi”. The moment you begin to entertain those thoughts, you’ve slipped into a place of judgement, which is probably fear-based and ego-driven. It is VERY hard to feel connected to everything and everyone around you when you organize your world as “Me” and “everyone else”.

Those are my thoughts for whatever they are worth. Having said that, you will probably need to explore to find the physical practice that is right for you. And hopefully you can respect that other people will need to do the same, and that some may need a physically different practice than yours, and that it is ALL GOOD as long as we are all heading toward the same place which is SPREADING THE LOVE.

Mad Love,

Very Wise words indeed!

What’sLove Got To Do With It?

What has love and finding love got to do with the Yamas you ask? (Yogic guidelines for living peacefully and abundantly)Well,…alot, actually!

There are Yamas and Niyamas. The Yamas are how you approach the world and the Niyamas have to do with your inner world.

With Valentines Day fast approaching I have noticed every list imaginable on the internet. “5 to Find Love Fast”, “Ten Tips for Dating” and so on and so forth. I figured I may as well jump on the list bandwagon, but in my case see how the Yamas might be helpful in guiding you in your quest for love.

The Yamas:

1. Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence

The obvious of course is you don’t want to date someone who is physically violent, but hopefully you guys already have that one figured out. I would like to point out however it is important that you date someone who is not violent to themselves either. By non-violent I mean someone who is confident, happy, and secure. Another form of violence to oneself comes in the form of abusing ones body. You want your love muffin around for a long time don’t you? Well, then pick someone who is active, cares about what food (or anything ELSE they are putting in their body) and are emotionally healthy as well.

2. Satya ~ Truthfulness
Someone that is truthful is priceless. This is a non-negotiable! Watch out for the ones who lie about little seemingly insignificant things or tell tall tales. Just say no to Pinocchio!

3. Asteya ~ Nonstealing
Stealing comes in many forms, none of which are good. Notice, does this person take advantage of your time? Your good will? How about taking credit for things that they did not do?

4. Brahmacharya ~ Restraint
If you are not familiar with Brahmacharya it is typically used to describe the ethical guidelines for sex. If you want to save yourself alot of akwardness and grief, get to know someone before hitting the hay so to speak. Unless of course, you enjoy a luke-warm plate of awkward with a sprinkling of “I’m such- a- idiot” with your breakfast in the morning.

5. Aparigraha ~ Nonpossessiveness
Someone that allows you to be who and what you are in all your glory. A non-stingy lover of life! Someone who does not covet or horde things, or you for that matter.

Remember, like attracts like! Be the kind of person you want to have in your life and you will draw them in like a magnet.

(A big hot human magnet that is!)