What am I doing?
I unroll my mat six days a week. I meditate. I chat the opening invocation in a cadence that feels too sacred to be my own.
Then, I flow with my breath to a Rocket or Primary Series Sequence. I am: in union with my breath, my mind and my body. Suddenly, savasana is over and with it that ephemeral sense of unity. A race replaces the tranquility. The psychological beat down begins: work, traffic, sprinting to teach one or two classes after a day at the desk. “Relax, breathe and go with the flow,” I remind my students. In my students I see the transformations: bodies grow stronger, energetic lines awaken. I sense the metaphysical metamorphosis: a sea of anxiety rides the wave of vinyasa into a collective calm. Smiles replace seething gazes and grumpy shoulders.
But is my work enough? Or have I only patched a superficial fix?
I drive home, drained, hungry, stressed. Time for a force-fed routine: a healthy meal, skincare/oral hygiene, bags packed for tomorrow. I watch an episode of something just quiet my brain: there is too much kinetic energy: thought stimulation: a lingering/leftover film of social interactions that I cannot wash off. I lay in bed: lights out. Behind the smirk of the candle’s smolder, I ponder: Am I failure? I practice and teach daily. I attempt to breath and do the right thing even when no one is watching. But, it feels as though I am huffing about on a hedonic treadmill rather than climbing the eight limbs of yoga. This is a daily practice with the duration of my lifetime. But, how often do we teachers and students practice yoga off the mat? When was the last time we cracked open our dusty training manuals and explored the other limbs? I instruct power yoga and rocket classes.
There is no time for spiritual pontificaion. People are here to breathe. They don’t want to listen to me preach my very egotistic experience of spirituality. My biggest pet peeve is when instructors begin flow classes with some esoteric thesis on the yoga sutras. I came here to sweat: not play audience to your exhibitionist fantasies.
But there has to be some spiritual intersection: some interaction between the limbs. Otherwise, we are just practicing acrobatics.
Yoga is not just about breathing and moving on the mat. This unifying practice teaches us discipline, self-study and genuine curiosity. We do this practice so can brave through our physical and psychological blocks in order to discover our true self. Believe it or not, your true self is not anxious, greedy, scared, or sad. She is calm, patient, and generous. When we remove these blockages, we are able to entrain our rhythms (the palpitation of the heart, the waves of the brain, the cadence of our breath) with the rivers of the divine ( the gravitational hum, the oceanic roar, the sun’s dance along the universe). Yes, this yoga practice is a discipline. However, it is also a light-hearted journey. The eight limbed yoga practice does not preach austerity. Rather, the practice rouses us to reduce the dissonance between ourselves, each other, nature, and our interpretation of the divine. We realize that we are not our thoughts, desires and fear. We are composed of the same threads that connect us to each other. When we operate within the structure of the eight limbs, we find peace within ourselves and we are able to interact harmoniously with others. This manifests a chain reaction across the universe. This process requires persistence not perfection. Many of us yogis possess the intention. We do the practice, we meditate, we explore pranayama. We share these tools with others catalyzing a positive chemical reaction in others.
However, let us take a dirty look at our lives off of the mat…
Let’s start on limb one: the Ethical Observations (yamas). Maybe, you never lose your temper at your partner, family, or friends (bless you!) But, you sure do judge that person. Maybe you harbor resentment and the anger inside you festers! Do you really practice Ahimsa? Are you a vegetarian who gossips? Do use cruelty free beautiful products, but spend hours a day lost in your neurotic thoughts? Do you really practice Satya? Oh, I am so honest! Are you authentic and genuine in all aspects of your life? Or do you assimilate for personal gain? Do you silence yourself to appease a loved one? Do you tell a white lie here or there or a more glaring, red lie because you are ashamed? Or perhaps, you think it is easier to ignore a situation and stay comfortable with it rather than make a terrifying change? How dare I accuse you of stealing (Asteya)! Okay, every now and again you help yourself to your housemate’s almond milk when you run out. You work on personal projects when you are on the clock at work. Okay, I confess I stole a few sponges too. But, when I sense someone wants to talk, do I offer my presence? Or do I reply with terse answers and bury myself in social media and disguise my ears with headphones? Bramacharya. You are a faithful, honest, loving partner. You don’t drink, smoke or watch TV. But, everyone struggles to moderate something. It is never really about sex, food, or alcohol is it? Aprarigraha: nonhoarding. I thought that I had mastered this limb until I attempted to pack my life into one suitcase. Why do I possess so many things?
In the next few weeks, we embark on an exciting exploration of the 8 limbs. We begin with the first limb, the yamas. This way, if you want to jump off, the ground will be close-by! A modern transparent yogi will provide personal, relatable stories that will inspire you to ponder you life. How can you incorporate these ethical observations joyfully into your life? Remember, the goal is persistence not perfection. By viewing our lives through the lens of the eight limbs, we brave through physical and psychological blocks that prevent us from knowing our true selves.
When we align with our Self, we seek union with a source of power/rhythm that is present in all of us. Our internal well of knowledge encourages us to see ourselves in others. We are all just trying to take it one day a time. Enjoy this beautiful life, in harmony with yourself, the others and your interpretation of the divine.
Randee is a 2007 graduate of the It’s Yoga Teacher Training in San Francisco. She currently lives in Puerto Escondido and is serving IYI as a superstar contributor to our global mission, that all beings everywhere are happy & free. And, she loves the Rocket!