I read an article yesterday from the New York Times titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”, and posted it this morning to my Facebook timeline because it created such an intense internal dialog within me. I knew that it would get others talking as well, and has it ever! The article talks about the dangers to the physical body that people have fallen victim to through their yoga practices, ranging from torn tendons to strokes, and since I posted it, I’ve had people asking me how I feel about what was included in the article and what my take is on yoga as a potential cause of physical damage.
As 2011 comes to a close, elements of the Hindu mythology workshop I gave this year keep creeping up int my thoughts, and I find myself listening for the drum beats of Lord Shiva…wondering if the passage of one year constitutes enough time to merit a beat. It is said that with each beat of his drum the death and rebirth of another age comes to pass, and as much as 2011 has been a year of growth and fruition of our efforts (for many of us), all the kineticism and daily events that have brought us everywhere we’ve been and that have shown us everything we’ve seen are all but a tiny blip on the radar. As we all, to varying degrees, look back on everything that 2011 has shown us, all we’ve learned about ourselves and the path we forge (or follow, depending on your beliefs), let’s remember some things, and commit to bringing these things with us into 2012:
I’ve been thinking recently about the moments in my life when empathy appears for those living through some sort of challenge or adversity. This internal analysis began when I saw a 3-legged dog hopping down the street on its leash, and my heart immediately jumped into my throat. The owner of the dog saw me looking at them as they walked by, and as stopped at the traffic light before crossing the street, she said to me, “Don’t pity him – he is so unaware of the absence of the fourth leg.” We both smiled and they continued on with their walk.
As many of you know, I laid my long-time canine companion Oliver to rest last week after having him by my side for almost 15 years. Oli was a long-haired Jack Russell Terrier whose intelligence bordered on the inconceivable and whose penchant for anxiety rivalled that of Woody Allen. He was faithful and loving, and could convey the hundreds of thousands of words in the English language through a single glance. His absence, as I’ve mentioned to those around me, has been overwhelming…and as time passes and the wound of saying good-bye to him slowly starts to heal, it is also providing incredible insight into the process of death, loss, and recovery from the shock of that loss.
I had an interesting thing happen last week that I’ve been mulling over ever since…figured I’d share it, as it’s been fascinating me. Shortly after the Montreal Yoga Mala wound down, I found myself mentally going over the whole planning process and remembered that I hadn’t yet watched the CTV news spot I did to promote the event, so I sat down in front of the TV and played it back. I remember doing the same thing with last year’s promo spot, and this year brought about the same reaction: I didn’t recognize the guy on TV as being me. I could obviously see, hear, and understand him, but as much as I sat there with the knowledge that I was watching myself, I felt completely detached from that person, as if I was watching someone else.
One of the most difficult tasks to overcome as someone conscious of my role in the relationships I’ve fostered throughout my life is working with my ego. We are all born into a world of things we inherently are attracted to and those we shun as we identify them as sources of pleasure or suffering, and it is through that discrimination that we end up with the frame of reference we carry around with us. It is through that frame of reference that we end up processing everything that occurs around us to determine whether we find it pleasing or not, whether we “accept” it or not. And that’s when the ego kicks in. That’s when the judgement occurs, when the separation and duality settles in, keeping me and my true essence separate from the scenarios unfolding around me. It is this exact process that is the root cause of ALL suffering in the world, so it’s no surprise that attacking the ego and the grip it exerts on us on an individual level constantly proves to be nearly insurmountable.
I’ve been preparing for the workshop and lecture I’ll be giving later this year for the Luna Yoga Teacher Training on Hindu mythology and how it relates to the yoga postures, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t passionately loving every second of my research. I’ve been going over the myths I’m already familiar with, as well as hearing some of the more obscure ones for the first time, and I keep having these moments of realization where I can really stand back from my life and see how the path I’m on is truly my dharma…it’s unreal, intense, and satisfying, all at the same time. As I finish with one myth, I put down my books and walk away from the computer, and sit down in silence to think about what I’ve read, and how it applies to my life and my approach to life.
There is a lot of information to process from the Yogic teachings, all of which can discombobulate the most grounded of people. Filtering through and processing it all may indeed prove to be exhausting, but allowing yourself to challenge what you consider true is always enlightening and more often than not, illuminating. One aspect of Yoga continues to this day to challenge my beliefs, and I believe that it poses some of the same questions for others as it does me. The Yogic scriptures and teachings bring everything back to one thing: union. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj, which means to unite or to yolk. We refer most often to the union of the mind, body and breath…the aim of which is to return or reunite with the source of all life, which is most often referred to as God in the teachings. This poses somewhat of a problem for me.
We are surrounded by doubt and fear, from all directions, all around us. We are bombarded by images of who we should be, what we should wear, eat, and drive, and how our bodies should look. All these “standards” that we inevitably hold ourselves up to (in spite of ourselves and our better, innate judgement) succeed in driving, and sometimes even creating, that fear. Fear of not fitting in, of not belonging, of being outcast…and all the while, the only thing we are accomplishing is the complete and utter suppression of our true selves…of our innate light, of our inspiring individuality that stems from the source of all energy which we all come from and to which we all return.
An integral part of my yogic journey involves recognizing where my ego tends to appear (and take over) and how to separate it from everyday situations to ensure that I’m not purely thinking of myself, but rather of the more universal Self. At this point in time, checking my ego has been an excercise almost […]