A little while ago we had a mini seminar at our shala. It was a part of a larger concept Dreamdo. I was asked if I'd have anything interesting to share as we now have started a new shala. We have only morning mysore and we take our new students straight into the system of doing it according to your own breath. It has given me new insights into how people actually learn the ashtanga system. It's amazingly beautiful, people learn in such different ways.
It has also given me time to reflect on what yoga acually does to you. It's been repeated like a mantra that "do your practise and all is coming". "All" also means all the pain and suffering which you would encounter anyway if nothing changes. By change I mean attitude towards everything you do. If you still push yourself in everything you do, the practise will change nothing. The practise is like a laboratory for your whole life. You find your challenges in every moment in a very intense way. With a stubborn ego you'll find yourself in trouble in no time at all.
The myths about yoga are among others
- Yoga promotes health.
- Yoga increases your spirituality.
- Yoga diminishes your ego.
Yoga's health promoting effects are commonly compared to the effects of physical excersise. If this would be the case yoga would just be a complicated way of doing your daily excersise. I'm sure there are other much more straight forward ways of taking care of your body. Injuries happens and so they also happen in yoga, inspite of our sincere intentions. There has to be something extraordinary to the approach to yoga in order to be beneficial for your health. Just sweating and stretching is obviously not the answer.
If you take your everyday attitude into yoga and expect your spirituality to increase, something will increase but that might as well be your ego. Spirituality in the sense of becoming a "better" person is doomed to fail you some day.
Spirituality is about embracing everything that's happening to you in an understanding way. It's about stopping to deny your shadow and realise that you are what you are, instead of imagining yourself transforming into your ideal person. The imagination is a wonderful thing for finding dreams and hopes but a really crappy thing when it comes to facing who you really are. Yoga as a mean of transforming yourself to the one who you really are takes a lot of honest work. It also takes courage to abandon all your ideas of where the yoga is taking you.
Yoga is a tool to come closer to the immaterial reality behind this world. It is by definition not reachable through our imagination which is run by your material mind. Our mind is a 100% rerun of our thoughts and experiences, there is nothing original about its thinking. We need to get connected with a reality which is not run by the thinking mind. The experiences we get from this we need to carefully observe in order not to fool ourselves.
The fantastic bliss of a great yoga practise doesn't stay as long as we wish. We find ourselves wishing things to last forever. This is the critical point in the practise, can we take the accepting attitude beyond the mat? We practise hard to accept good days and bad days on the mat to eventually land in shavasana with a happy smile on our face. The acceptance of things and conditions as they are is likely to end when the practise ends. The feeling of total pleasure of a tough practise is like a bait for the ego to want this to last as a never ending feeling.
How does this diminish the ego? It doesn't. Health, blissful feeling and a state of no thoughts disturbing you is like a drug for the ego. It says: I want more of this. So there we go again wanting to controll what we have. We can go very far with this method and even experience a total change of our life. If the change is based on the reality behind everything it's of course no problem. However that is not always the case.
A woman at the seminar shared an episode of her life with us. She had got hooked on yoga and meditation to the degree that she left her job and husband and travelled to India to do yoga and meditation. She was totally high on the experience of everything. Her diet changed, no meat and alcohol. As she said, "I tried to drink a glass of wine but it wasn't possible". Finally something happened that made her see everything she had done as one big illusion. She fell flat on the ground. She told us that all the energy she had used to deny her dark side, her shadow, started to work against her. She landed in a total different reality. It took a couple of years of hard work to express and get rid of her anger and all the falseness. Even the act of bying a good piece of meat to prepare for food was an act of reality.
Whatever we do in order to reach for a better life can be food for the ego. How can we then practise yoga in a way that promotes health and spirituality without feeding the ego? Now this is the million dollar question. How could I even dare to answer?
The noble intention in Ashtanga yoga is to stay focused on the breath and on the coordination of breath and movement, the Vinyasa. Practising everyday guarantes you that there will be days when you absolute don't want to do it. This is a wonderful opportunity to still do it accepting everything what is. The balance between this and selfdestructive behavior is of course a fine line. When is it OK to quit and when should we just continue? This is the same one million dollar question in another form. Let's see if Ramana Maharshi can help us.
Ramana Maharshi said: ask yourself, who are you? The question in itself is the answer to the one million dollar question above. Can "Who am I", be your guide in your practise? Can you really let the question resonate through your whole beeing in all situations, on the mat and outside the mat? Can you let all your doing and all your practise be guided by this question. The answer doesn't come through your thinking mind. The question in itself is the real deal.