Happy Healthy and Fit

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Good is your Yoga? Test it Off the Mat!

Yoga is an opportunity to practice equanimity while holding an uncomfortable position.  Keeping the breath calm and steady while deepening into a twist, bending into a bridge, elevating into a shoulder stand or moving through sun salutations are a few of the ways yogis and yoginis 'practice' yoga.  The practice is remaining calm while experiencing the physical challenges and pains your body is signaling.

Yoga is also an opportunity to practice equanimity of mind while sitting in a meditative position.  In fact, the 196 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are summed up in the 2nd sutra I.2 which translates as Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.  This means to stop the swirling of chaos (vrtti) that is constantly chattering through the mind.  Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah is how it appears in Sanskrit.

It is lovely to practice yoga on your mat.  However, the moving part of yoga known as asana practice is only one of the 8 limbs of yoga.  When you master the physical part, you have mastered only 12% of the whole process.  Mastering the breath or pranayama will bring you to a whopping 24%.

The real test of your yoga practice happens off the mat.  How good is your yoga?  Can you maintain grace and poise when someone cuts you off in traffic?  Can you maintain grace and poise when you slip in the mud or it begins to rain on your vacation?  Can you maintain steadiness and ease when things don't go your way?  Can you find gratitude and appreciation for those experiences that do not turn out as planned?  Can you separate people from their behaviors and see yourself in everyone?

When things do not go your way, are you able to maintain your steadiness of breath and lighted hearted nature?  Are you able to stay calm in difficult life situations or do you quickly retreat back to what is comfortable?  The splits and handstands are fun to practice, but no matter how good they get, alone they will not bring you any closer to happiness.

Yoga is the yoking and union of you to your soul and of your soul to the collective soul.  Mastering your emotions and training your physical body are the means to becoming a warrior, someone who mastered has self.  A Yogi is a warrior with patience and tolerance for all living creatures.  How often do you become irritated and what do you do about your irritation?

I test myself everyday.  I still feel my heart tighten occasionally, take things personally and even feel compelled to defend myself once in a while.  I am not perfect, but I will keep practicing my yoga on and off the mat.  By remaining conscious of what makes you uncomfortable and moving into it with equanimity, you are well on your way!

You know you are a true yogi when you your greatest pose is great poise in the midst of any adversity. Infinite patience and tolerance is the fastest path to ultimate and lasting Happiness.

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