Thanks for the feedback on my last blog! I’m following up by responding directly to one of your comments where I asked you to leave requests for future blog topics. Another thank you, for bringing inspiration to what I love to do, writing + yoga. The question is about my opinion on incorporating “social justice and public responsibility with personal growth and/or the overlaps therein.” I’ll start off by saying one of the reasons I love to teach retreats and teacher trainings is for discussion on things like this. It’s not all sunshine and handstands, there are some real questions in the world today.
Luckily, yoga offers us a simple 5-part solution to social justice and public responsibility in the Yamas. Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-hoarding) + Brahmacharya (moderation) constitute the first limb, or most preliminary practice, of the 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga practice. The yamas (or ‘restraints’ ‘controls’ ‘ethics’) are beyond space and time, they are unconditional and universal, they apply to all things; thought, speech + action. When things get tough at any scale, I fall back on these principles. Yoga can read about them in the classical text, the Yoga Sutras.
Another personal philosophy I hold is that the practice and the sharing go hand-in-hand. How is it even possible to participate in the 5 yamas if we aren’t an active part of the world around us? Whether you work in a cubicle or in customer service, you are never confined to the single soul or prana within your body. We are a culmination of every BODY we have seen, touched, danced with, or even been near to; and we are always intercepting or adapting to our surroundings. Energy is inevitable.
As a yoga teacher (and human), I personally try to radiate positive energy; in my classes, at my home, with my friends, during teacher training, alone in my bed, walking on the sidewalk… The sharing of the yoga in this way feels valuable to me and my own personal growth, but I can’t share it if no one wants to know about it. So my love for yoga + sharing have only been made possible by the people who continue to believe that by being better humans we can legitimately make this world a better place. For this I continue to work harder, give back more and never give up.
Last weekend I attended a workshop with a teacher from our lineage, David Swenson. Besides doing immaculate impressions and offering awesome assists, David has a huge heart and warm smile. David exudes happiness, grace and humility. He says that “yoga is personal responsibility…” Sometimes we meet a human who is grumpy, fragile and angry; sometimes that human is inside of ourselves. If we can simply begin to take personal responsibility for our emotions, actions and thoughts without beating anyone up about it, that’s a first step. David’s quote of the weekend was, “it’s OK… Let it go.” A reminder that each moment is fleeting, so why bother with the shitty feelings, the self-loathing and the guilt?
If we look at the practice of Yoga as Personal Responsibility and if we start at the yamas, we’re already making great progress as a self and as the whole. So personal growth in direct relationship to how we treat the world? Yoga conveniently nails that down with the Niyamas, more guidelines in the 2nd limb, but this time directed towards you, your family and your closest of friends. Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadyaya (self-study) and Isvara Pranidana (surrender/divinity). Because these are more personal, the practices may look differently across culture, geography or even generations. I’ll say it again, energy is inevitable, and because of this constant moving, shifting + adapting you’ll find many different people living fulfilling lives in different ways. Surrounding ourselves with people who hold these same values is another natural step in the process to support happiness, health and wholeness, or fullness.
Sometimes I refer to Yamas and Niyamas as the yoga we learned in pre-school or kindergarten.
We need to keep learning it. The moments that required our patience when we were 5 years old are very different from the ones we face today.
You can take the word “YOGA” and define it however you please. Call this yoga, that yoga, every thing yoga… But my advice is try to study the yoga in practice, read the classical texts slowly and be diligent for a little bit of time. Try to quiet the mind, learn from the stillness in nature and most importantly, treat others the way you want to be treated. Sometimes I refer to Yamas and Niyamas as the yoga we learned in pre-school or kindergarten. We need to keep learning it. The moments that required our patience when we were 5 years old are very different from the ones we face today. With personal growth, I believe the natural progression is a greater responsibility for the people around you. One of the reasons I blog is the hope that someone who can’t make it to a training or retreat will still find some joy in my practice of sharing, maybe a spark of inspiration.
Finally, this CLARITY is what it’s all about. There’s a whole lot of energy in the world and we are ultimately vulnerable to all of it. Start with personal responsibility, ask for help, reach out and the sharing happens naturally. It is good for us to come together in positive ways and we all have different means to do so. It’s also good to take time to figure out what means something to you, and do more of that. Notice when you feel alive in your own right, embodied by your prana and don’t be afraid to try again tomorrow. Yoga is practice. Be clear about that.