Well NO, and here’s why.
You might think it goes with the yoga territory to be all calm and content, patient and peaceful, enlightened even. Zen perhaps, although that’s the preserve of the lovely Lisa and her random acts (and cards) of karma and kindness.
But as one of my teachers says, and I may have mentioned before, it’s yoga practice not yoga perfect. Not that it’s any real excuse!
In teacher training I’m exploring the yoga that doesn’t happen on the mat. The hard stuff. The important stuff. Who would have thought getting bendy is the easy bit!
In traditional yoga philosophy there are 8 limbs of yoga (handy in an octopus kinda way if you want to get into all those out-there, twisty pretzel poses).
Only one limb of yoga is actually the physical movement practice or asana. There’s breathing, which is kinda really important, you know to survive, but also to move and meditate.
Hot yoga tip: focus on the breath and you’ll get the yoga
But the first (and I reckon they put it in this order on purpose) limb of yoga is the practice of becoming a better person. Simple really!! In fact that’s what I reckon yoga is mostly about.
And you see contrary to popular belief, this yogi bear doesn’t shit in the woods. Like the original yogi bear, she prefers to find a public convenience close to the picnic spot.
In other words, she may take the easy way out. She’ll choose comfort over courage. She’ll choose picnic basket thievery over foraging in the forest. She’ll settle for sandwiches sometimes rather than searching for the exotic.
She may be ‘smarter than your average bear’ (just sayin, in Yogi’s famous words) but that doesn’t stop her being stupid with self-judgment and fear. She isn’t enlightened or even very calm.
But the yoga journey asks us to do more, think more, feel more, BE more. Well it just asks us to BE, and then the more part comes with hard work and the yoga territory.
So Yama is the first limb of yoga – it stands for ethical disciplines. They are like the ten commandments really. Ahimsa (which means non- violence, in thoughts as well as actions – this is where yoga vegetarianism comes from, gulp, guilty); Satya (truth – in what we think and speak); Asetya (non-stealing, or literally not coveting what someone else has); Brahmacharya (sometimes thought of as celibacy, but really moderation, austerity); Aparigraha (non-attachment, simplicity – in the zen proverb “this too shall pass”).
Then there are Niyama, the five rules of conduct linked to individual disciplines: Saucha (purity – of body, thought, food); Santosa (contentment); Tapas (character-building); Svadhyaya (self-study, education); Isvara pranidhana (dedication to God).
“The more I learn the less I know” may be true, but I see so much more in common in our world’s religious and ethical traditions than I see different. In Yinyang terms I see the harmony, but know the hate is also there too. Sadly too much of it.
And I ask my family, friends, and blog readers to understand that while I practice yoga to be a better person (and believe yoga makes me a better person) there is still fear, laziness, judgment, anger and impatience that I find within myself on and off the mat.
But if you’re patient with me (and you have been to read this far), then I thank you for your patience. And I trust I will get better.
Without getting overly-zealous in debate (and not having studied theology) what do you think – are the basic teachings about how to live a good life pretty similar (and a lot of it boils down to love), even though beliefs differ? I’m focusing on non-attachment and contentment right now, care to share your challenge? (PS – having fun making little animated gif’s lately – what do you think of my moving yogi?)
Linking up with Essentially Jess for another IBOT.