Many thanks to Gulnaaz Dashti for her insight and wisdom in the workshop she conducted at the Yoga Room at the end of April.
The main article in this newsletter is the second in the series taking a deeper look at the yogic philosophy as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We look at the three Yamas: Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy) and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding).
There are limited spaces available for the Yoga Room Spring Yoga Intensive. If you are thinking of attending don’t leave it too late.
Enjoy the newsletter and keep practising.
Video of the Month – BKS Iyengar, Ultimate Freedom
Article of the Month – How yoga philosophy can be useful in our everyday lives: The eight limbs of yoga (Part 2)
Upcoming Events; Yoga Room Spring Yoga Intensive and Paul Watson English Channel Swim
Yoga Students “off the mat” – Damien
Patanjali Yoga Sutra of the month
Quote of the Month
This video of BKS Iyengar is definitely worth watching. It is in black and white and shot in 1976 at the YMCA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It begins with a short, powerful introduction by Guruji on the physical, mental, and spiritual freedom yoga brings.
He then demonstrates various fundamental asana, along with some play-by-play commentary and exposition on proper alignment and form as well as on the therapeutic and anatomical benefits of the postures, delivered as he performs the poses.
To recap from the previous newsletter:
1 Yama (moral disciplines)
2 Niyama (rules of conduct)
3 Asana (poses or postures)
4 Pranayama (restraint or expansion of the breath)
5 Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
6 Dharana (concentration)
7 Dhyana (meditation)
8 Samadhi (absorption, spiritual enlightenment)
Last month, we looked at the first two of the five Yamas, Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satya (truthfulness).
This month, we look at the remaining three Yamas: Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy) and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding).
Asteya means much more than not taking something that doesn’t belong to us. It implies not to steal, or cheat, or unethically manipulate for our own gain. Asteya goes beyond actions; it also implies not stealing through speech, writing, or even in our thoughts. Asteya arises out of the understanding that all misappropriation is an expression of a feeling of lack. To steal or want to steal expresses lack of faith in ourselves. In stealing from another, we are also stealing from our own potential to develop. Instead of seeking to fill our own emptiness, we look to take from another who we perceive as having what we lack.
Gandhi considered asteya as a human right to property without fear. In Gandhi’s view, asteya follows from ahimsa (non-violence), because stealing is a form of violence and injury to another.
A feeling of not being good enough may propel us beyond healthy boundaries in our practice on the mat. By practising mindfully, we can learn to move towards how an asana feels rather than how it looks. This requires us being in the present moment, allowing ourselves to be open and accepting how our practice is at that moment. Our practice can then be defined not by the postures we are able to do, but by the awareness we bring to them.
Practising asteya on the mat involves not only us, but our fellow students in a class. The yoga room is a sacred space and for many, it may be the only place they can find peace. Arriving to the class on time, moving mindfully and quietly, not disturbing the peace of those already in the room—not stealing their peace—allows others to focus on whatever they need to at the time.
If the root cause of asteya is a feeling of lack, a feeling of ‘I’m not good enough’, and we believe that appropriating something belonging to someone else will satisfy this lack, then by practising the feeling that we do have enough and we are enough in ourselves, we can move towards achieving a feeling of satisfaction, ‘fullness’, wholeness and happiness.
Whenever those feelings of lack, want or desire arise, repeating the mantra ‘I am enough’ may help.
Brahmacharya literally means ‘going after Brahman (Supreme Reality, Self or God)’. It has been translated variously as ‘to walk with God’, ‘to move in truth’, ‘to merge with the one’.
The practice of brahmacharya is most often associated with celibacy, but there’s a lot more to it. Many spiritual traditions and religions have struggled with the dilemma of how to use sexual energy wisely. Practising brahmacharya means using our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self, not using it in any way that might harm another. Manipulating and using others sexually leads to pain, jealousy, attachment, resentment and hatred.
However, considering brahmacharya purely as energy, rather than specifically as sexual energy, it means merging our energy with ‘the one’. It means using our energies mindfully and wisely, and experiencing our interconnectedness with all life. Brahmacharya also implies moderation and balance—in our work, our play, our relationships with others, not forgetting our relationship with ourselves.
One way of practising brahmacharya on the mat is to set an intention at the beginning of our practice by identifying something in our life that feels out of balance—it may be finances, a relationship, our job, how we relate to food and exercise, or something else. Once we identify this, we can make a positive statement about bringing balance to it. For example, ‘I want more work/life balance’. During the class, we can then devote the energy of our yoga practice to making this intention a reality.
Again, practising brahmacharya involves leaving behind our thoughts of past and future, and giving our full attention to the present moment. By creating clear intentions while we practise, each breath brings us closer to experiencing those intentions in the world of form.
Bahmacharya—right use of energy—is useful to consider in our everyday, often overly busy lives. There seems a societal expectation to always be busy, to always be doing. By becoming aware of this ‘doing for doing’s sake’ we can step back and think about the nature of what we’re doing, and whether all the activities we’re engaged in are using our energy in the best way for us. Indications of frenetic activity may be that we have little energy, little space to breathe, no time to stop and smell the flowers, to do things that are nourishing to our bodies and minds. By becoming aware of this, we can take the opportunity to spend a few moments a day to stop and breathe and find a little peace.
It is also useful to be aware of how we feel physically and energetically in certain situations. Some people may drag our energy down, while others make us light. This awareness helps us make choices about who we wish to spend our time with.
Aparigraha often translates as ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, ‘non-attachment’. It refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on our life stage and context. It involves exercising self-restraint to avoid the greed and avarice of material gain through hurting, killing or destroying other life forms.
In exercising aparigraha, we demonstrate an awareness that in abstaining from appropriating objects, or even objectives, ‘just because’, we understand the disadvantages of their acquisition, maintenance and loss, our attachment to them, or our harming of them.
In our competitive world, it may be a challenge for us not to compare our practice to that of the person on the mat beside us. We may lose sight of the reason we came to class. We lose focus. Our practice strays from connecting with ourselves and being present, to being ‘better’ than the person on the mat next to us, or pushing ourselves beyond what our body is ready for at the time. This is where ‘non-greed’ and ‘non-attachment’ come in.
It can be useful to shift our focus from ‘becoming’ something in our yoga practice to simply ‘being’ in it, enjoying the practice in and of itself, without forcing or pushing ourselves beyond our capabilities, or comparing ourselves to someone else. While progress in our practice is rewarding, it can be equally rewarding to let go of specific goals and simply enjoy the practice.
Some of the ways we can apply aparigraha involve the physical possessions we own, our food and our thoughts.
Hoarding material possessions may bring heaviness into our lives and an energetic ‘baggage’ of attachment to those possessions; we worry about losing them, we spend time maintaining them, all the while believing that these objects bring us happiness. We seldom need all these ‘things’ that surround us; by selling some of them or giving them to charity, we can lighten our load and live a less cluttered life, in home and in mind.
By applying aparigraha to our diets, we can be more aware of what and how much we eat, and learn not to be wasteful with food choices. Many of us in Australia are among the small percentage of the world’s population fortunate enough to have sufficient to eat. What we can learn is to acknowledge when we have had enough. We can also learn to buy only what we need so that we do not waste food.
Finally, by practising ‘non-hoarding’ in our thoughts, we can experience the happiness and joy of the changing situations in our life—a new relationship, a new project, a trip overseas—and enjoy each experience fully and completely in that moment, without projecting ourselves into the future and becoming anxious about what will happen when the situation is over. Just as summer becomes autumn becomes winter which turns into spring, so our life situations go through constant flux. By accepting this and not ‘hoarding’ these experiences, we can appreciate a feeling of freedom not available to us when we try to hang onto those situations.
Ultimately, aparigraha is about letting go.
• BKS Iyengar’s Light on the Yoga Sutras.
This intensive with Maurice will run for 18 days. Each 1.5 hour session will be designed to introduce and develop the concept of balance of body, mind and breath to the yoga practice. Experienced students and beginners alike will honor the balance of excitement and calm, inner stillness and dynamic motion, activity and acceptance.
Paul Watson is about to swim the icy waters of the English Channel to help raise awareness of the disastrous problem of Domestic Violence in Australia.
In this section of the newsletter, we introduce Yoga Room students and showcase some of the amazing things they do off the mat. We encourage you, where possible, to support their endeavours.
Damien started practising yoga at the Yoga Room in June 2016. It was the first time he had ever done yoga. “I’ve just done my eighty-fifth class,” he said recently. “I said I’d give myself a year and do a hundred classes after I had two disks in my neck replaced with synthetic disks. They spontaneously collapsed in April 2016. After surgery, I was going to rehab and I didn’t enjoy it at all so the physio suggested I try yoga. And it’s gone from there.” Damien currently averages around two classes a week and plans to continue with yoga after he reaches the hundredth class.
Damien has discovered tremendous benefits from yoga, after having led a strenuously physical life. He spent thirteen years in the Melbourne police force. “It was a hard life physically. We had no physios, you just put up with the injuries and kept going.” Since starting yoga, he has noticed a myriad of benefits, from sleep improvement, a decrease in nerve pain (which he experienced for years, even before the collapse of the disks in his neck), improved movement, and less stiffness and pain.
His life has improved so much through the practice of Iyengar yoga that he does around forty-five minutes a day practice at home, including on the days he goes to class. He has even set up ropes at home, and uses other props as well to support him during his practice.
Born and raised in Melbourne, Damien only moved to the Gold Coast a couple of years ago. He initially came here on business, loved it and stayed. Now, he splits his time between here and Melbourne, where he owns a business, a compliance and R& D test laboratory. They test ballistics products such as vehicles, bullet-proof vests, cockpit doors, and red light cameras for defence, police forces, manufacturers of ballistics products, and most governments around the world. Damien also owns a cattle farm outside of Melbourne and goes there to work on the farm as often as he can.
In his spare time, he enjoys the beach life, swimming, running, and playing AFL. He loves reading, mainly biographies, likes rock bands, and is an avid listener of talkback radio.
Chapter 2 Verse 38
“When the sadhaka is firmly established in continence, knowledge, vigour, valour and energy flow to him.”
BKS Iyengar. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Pg 143
“Energy is a bit like money: if you have a positive balance, you can distribute it in various ways, but according to the classical laws that were believed at the beginning of the century, you weren’t allowed to be overdrawn.”
Yoga Room Burleigh Heads
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