Living simply in complex times, can it make you happy?
A yoga life is meant to be a simple life, free from attachments and with a mind that can transcend the 5 senses to experience living from the 6th sense of intuition. But yoga in our life, in the mainstream, can be quite complicated. What kind of yoga should I do? Can I afford it? How do I learn it? From whom do I learn? If it’s a spiritual practice, why do I have to pay for it? Today I received an ezine that has the top 10 yoga clothing designers to choose from. Oh! Do we now have to afford yoga clothes and a “yoga look” too?
Pahtanjali’s Yoga Sutras provide us with many insights into what yoga is ii: 42 says, “Because of contentment, there is an unsurpassed attainment of happiness” and Yogi Bhajan told us that happiness is our birthright.
The truth is that our lives feel more and more complicated. Perhaps that is why so many turn to yoga. Stress levels have increased, people are taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills and sleeping pills to cope with their daily lives. The pressures of these times are reflected in our economy, our healthcare system, our health problems, and our lives.
The world is no longer one place. The economy is global. We are all aware of the need to return to a simpler way of life in order to save our planet: our air, water, food and all living species. Many yogis are jumping on the bandwagon, but are we really paying attention to the message in our own lives? Many are, in small ways and in great efforts. Linda Rowe, the yoga teacher in Houlton, Maine, built a house with her husband David that was completely eco-friendly, using solar and compost toilets. The house is beautiful and was built with the help of friends and is proof that you don’t need a big budget to go green.
Having a budget is actually a great way to live more simply. We often create less waste and excess this way. If you don’t have the budget for ongoing yoga classes, take a few to start, see if you can volunteer or barter for some classes. Ask the teacher for a home routine. Buy a DVD to practice at home or check out a book or video/DVD from the library. The best and most basic yoga practice is sun salutations. (See the end of the article for a description.) While it’s great fun to challenge yourself to more than this, with a few Sun Salutations a day you can build a practice that will give you more. flexibility and strength. Adding a little pranayama to your practice makes you realize the full potential of the breath to deliver life-giving prana to our cells, internal organs, and systems. As we take a deep breath, we can momentarily free our mind from attachments to the things we think are missing in our lives, unfulfilled dreams and desires, and just be free in the moment. A yoga practice can be too simple to have profound effects. Slowing down the breath, suspending and holding the breath, can change patterns in our way of thinking, feeling and being. We may not be able to control certain external aspects in our lives, but with yoga we can learn to control our mind, body, breathing, and our reactions to things. Everything seems a little simpler at such times.
In a yogi life we also practice doing no harm and being truthful. This really makes life simpler, living authentically, without having to watch your back or remember some lie you told someone! We can take that of not getting injured in our physical practice (who said we have to force ourselves in impossible postures?) to the words we say to others and to ourselves. Are we really making our lives more complicated than necessary just by what we say and think? We could sit quietly for a few minutes following the flow of our breath and wonder what we could change to make life less complicated for ourselves!
The fact is that human beings are complicated, each and every one of us, but it is the way we manage all of our components (emotional, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual) that helps us create the physical and mental balance that we need. reach yoga. We can create rituals for our practice to support a balanced life, but we must also allow ourselves to be flexible. If you feel guilty and angry at yourself for not exercising or meditating more, or at the exact same time every day, this will only cause more stress and imbalance.
No matter who we are and how much we practice, we live in this world. We have real problems. With yoga we have asana to purify the body. We have tools to help our minds see things more clearly so we can live simply. Yoga is an art and a science. Ultimately, yoga is to help us strive to be happier. Yoga has become so popular that some teachers are reaching the masses and are real money makers. Perhaps the teachers who are not reaching out to the masses, catering to the star system in which our culture so thrives, are the ones who live more simply like the yogis of yore. That is for our hearts to decide, and theirs. Whatever form it takes and whatever speaks to you, yoga is a practice that can lighten your load and make life seem a little easier.
Here is a meditation for inner tension and stress:
The fingers are related to the brain, so see if you can do this hand position as specified and maintain it at all times.
Place your hands like a lotus flower in front of the middle of your chest.
Let the little fingers and thumbs (tips) meet on each hand.
Let the three middle fingers of each hand come together and be straight. DO NOT touch pinkies or thumbs.
Close your eyes to a tenth part, looking at the tip of your nose (this fixes your mind)
inhale through the nose
exhale through the mouth
inhale through the mouth
exhale through the nose
Continue to focus on creating this breathing pattern for 11 minutes while keeping your hands in position and your eyes on the tip of your nose the entire time (best to use a timer).
At the end, inhale through your nose, close your eyes, hold your breath, and then let it out when you need it. She repeats this two more times.
Relax your hands and take a few moments to sit or lie down and notice how you feel.
Sun Regards: There are many variations on these, but this one is basic. All breathing is through the nose.
1-Stand with your feet together and parallel, hands at your sides, feel the flow of your breath.
2-Join the hands at the height of the middle of the chest.
3-Inhale, bring your arms up and let your palms meet (or not) and let your head fall back if it’s comfortable for your neck.
4-Exhale and fold the body in half, dropping the head and bringing the hands to the ground (if you can, the hands are just beside and outside of your feet)
5-Inhale and step back with the right foot, letting the knee be down or up.
6-The left foot is between the hands until you inhale it again to meet the right.
Keep breathing and hold the plank position (front bend position) for a few moments.
7-Drop your knees to the floor and carefully bring your body to the mat (belly down) on an exhale.
8-Bring your hands under your shoulders and inhale, lift your chest, being careful to keep your shoulders down and back, and lift your head slightly if that’s okay for your neck (this is cobra).
9-Hold the position for one or two breaths and then inhale on your hands and knees.
10- On the next inhalation, lift your tailbone toward the ceiling in a downward dog fashion, spread your fingers apart, and press the balls of your feet and hands (as well as your fingers) into the floor. (the body looks like an inverted V).
Stay here for up to 5 long, deep breaths through the nose.
11-Inhale take the right foot forward, exhale. (take a step or walk with the foot forward between the hands).
12-Inhale take the left foot forward, exhale knees bent.
13-Inhale lift your head, push your lower back down and your head up, straighten your legs now.
14-Exhale, drop your head to your knees and stretch your spine as much as you can, keep your legs straight if you can, bend them if necessary (for the less flexible).
15-Inhale, raise the body and arms up, the palms are on the head (or not).
16-Exhale lower your arms to your side.
That is a complete sun salutation, do 2-3 minimum and up to 5 to start. Now you have a simple yoga routine and meditation! Do the sun salutations as a physical warm-up and then the meditation or simple breathing exercises sitting cross-legged or in a chair with a straight spine.
Donna (Amrita) Davidge has been teaching yoga since 1985 in New York City. In 1997, he opened Sewall House Yoga Retreat in Island Falls, Maine, offering guests the opportunity to learn and practice yoga in small, non-competitive classes, with personalized attention, and in his great-grandfather’s historic home, offering an atmosphere of a time understated with the beautiful antiques and energy of its ancestors. Her husband, Kent Bonham, is the chef, musician, and oversees the work-study program at the retreat. [http://www.sewallhouse.com/info]@sewallhouse.com with yoga questions, retreat questions. 888-235-2395.