Category Archives: Yogic Teachings Potpourri

Yoga is….

….. _________ . You fill in the blank.

I was internally prompted to write on this, and I found myself reviewing my trajectory of over 30 years of practice. I began with yoga asana, as many of us do, and discovered a wonderful grounding and embodiment of a sort I desperately needed. And I sensed there was a lot more.

So I explored philosophy for many years, first finding it impenetrable, yet I approached it as a practice, and begin to get some inklings of its profundity. It pointed me directly and repeatedly to meditation, and I was lucky to finally find a great teacher, Paul Muller-Ortega.

My meditation practice is the pinnacle of my journey, opening up my heart and life in ways I could not have imagined.

So what, of all these years of practice, is yoga? For me, if I had to encapsulate right now what yoga, it is these 5 things (moving from the outside in, then back out!).

  1. a physical practice that keeps me embodied, grounded and healthy. My asana practice keeps my body nourished as I age.
  2. An intellectual study of philosophy, of understanding a worldview I find compelling, and understanding the theory of the practice
  3. MEDITATION. A daily practice of sitting to connect to my heart, the heart of everything.
  4. Connection. Understanding and experiencing how everything is connected.
  5. Acting/living on the basis of that connection.

So my working definition of yoga is: the practices that support, and the process of experiencing, the fundamental connective pulsation of the heart, and living from that connection.

Now, your turn. Yoga is …. ______________ .

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PURNA: Your Perfect Self

Purnam adah purnam idam
Purnat purnam udacyate
Purnasya purnam adaya
Purnam eva avishishyate

That (the Absolute) is full, this (the manifest) is full.
From fullness fullness proceeds.
If we take away the fullness of fullness, even fullness then remains.
(trans. Radhakrishnan)

This verse from the Upanisads is such a beautiful, yet paradoxical, teaching.  Technically it is about how the ultimate reality is completely perfect, full, whole, and out of that perfection comes all of the manifest world.  Yet the ultimate reality still remains full.

Since we come from perfection and wholeness, we are perfect and whole beings.  And yet, we are limited.  Just by virtue of having bodies we do have physical limitation. But at our essence we are perfectly full and whole.  Again, it’s a paradox.

Do you feel perfect?  Do you feel whole?

Probably not.

How do we deal with that feeling of lack? The feeling of being less than whole? Many people search for something to fill that sense of lack.  They turn to various substances, consuming stuff, or creating experiences to feel whole again.  At best it is a temporary fix, at worst it leads to addictive and destructive behavior.

Yoga is intended to help us connect with that place of unlimited perfection.  Yoga turns us back to Source, to That which is inherently full.  We can experience and recognize our own innate perfection through our practices, especially meditation. When we meditate, we settle in to a place that feels fuller and whole.

On a practical level, we can notice how we approach our world. It is the glass half-empty or half-full issue.  Do you focus on your limitations and imperfections?  Or can you acknowledge the aspects of perfection and wholeness that already exist in your life?

And further, what about others?  Not only are YOU a perfect and whole human being – so is everyone else. Can you see the perfection in others?  Or do you focus primarily on their limitations?  What would happen if all your interactions with others reflected a fundamental sense that they were perfect and whole?

Even more paradoxical: we are all perfect, whole beings, AND there is even more wholeness and perfection possible.  Each is perfect in this moment. AND THERE IS MORE!

For example, I love roses.  I love the beauty and perfection of the bud, but even more beautiful is when it just starts to open – and as it continues to blossom it becomes EVEN MORE PERFECT.  Each stage is perfection.

Think of babies and children, and how each are just perfect, yet they will continue to grow toward even greater perfection.

Each of us comes into this world whole, full, and perfect. The paradox of our lives is to acknowledge that perfection, even as we move to a more perfect fullness.

I invite you to consider this teaching on purna with the following exercises.

·    Contemplate and journal on the above verse from the Upanishads.  Feel free to replace the word “full” with “perfect” or “whole” for a different flavor.

·    When do you feel most whole?  What moves you toward a greater sense of perfection?

·    What creates a feeling of lack in your life?

·    Experiment with interacting with others as if they were perfect.  Journal on the results.

·    Notice any tendency you have to look at the imperfection in any situation first.  Try focusing on what is perfect in each moment.

Namaste

You likely have heard this word in your yoga class.  I use it at the end of all of my classes, though I rarely take the time to explain it.  Namaste is one of those Sanskrit words that has many meanings.  It is comprised of two words, “namah” and “te.”  The former means “bow” or “salutation,” and the latter means “to you.”  So literally means “salutation to you”, or “I bow to you.”

For me, taking a moment to fold my hands in front of my heart and say namaste is an opportunity to remember why we do yoga. In some of my classes lately, I’ve been asking people why they want to do yoga, or why they want to meditate. There are a variety of answers, but eventually most people recognize that these practices are intended to uncover, engage, and connect us to the core essence being of our Selves.  We discover the inner Self, that place that is within us when we’re born, traverses the path of our life, and remains when we leave our bodies. And once we get a hint of that essence, we want more, and as our awareness grows we discover that the essence, that spark of divinity, pervades all beings.

So at the end of class we take a moment of remembrance.  We remember why we do yoga. We remember that place within ourselves.  We remember that place is within all beings.  We bow to that place, to our SELVES, and as well we bow to that essence in all beings.  It is a reminder, as we get up off our cushion or mat, as we transition from an inner awareness to an outer world, as we put on our street clothes and assume our every day identities, that we remain connected to this essential self.  We remember to allow that connection to uplift, sustain, and guide us as we go about our day-to-day lives.

And we remember that this essence is in all beings.  Not just theoretically,  but REALLY!  This has implications for how we think, behave and interact. So when I go for my latte, I recognize that the barrista is made up of that essence, as is the bank teller, the person in front of me at the grocery store, the person who cuts me off in traffic, the trees, the deer crossing the street, and the planet. I bow to each of them.  I remember that at essence they are divine, as am I.

To get a clearer sense for yourself of how namaste can become a reminder, below are some contemplations for you to work with. I invite you come up with a corresponding English phrase  that is meaningful to you, and remember it when you bring your hands together in front of your heart and say “NAMASTE!!!”

CONTEMPLATION
– Why do you do yoga?

– How does it feel to put your hands in prayer position in front of  your heart and bow to another?

– How would you fill in the blank:  I bow to _________ in myself and all beings.

– Come up with a phrase that makes “Namaste” meaningful for you.