Back To School! The ABC’s of Yoga as Service.
As yoga practitioners in the west, we learn much about asana, the spine, the benefits of the physical practice to our cardiovascular, respiratory, & nervous systems. As we work to learn, integrate and share the benefits of our practice off the mat, from a spiritual heart – one of service – it can be helpful to review these simple “ABC’s” of the practice of yoga. You may wish to choose just one work to focus on in your meditation each week, or perhaps one in particular for the entire month.
“Through practice, I’ve come to see that the deepest source of my misery is not wanting things to be the way they are. Not wanting myself to be the way I am. Not wanting the world to be the way it is. Not wanting others to be the way they are. Whenever I’m suffering, I find this ‘war with reality’ to be at the heart of the problem.” – Stephen Cope
Yoga teaches us that certain postures will never be possible anatomically within our bodies. When we embrace & accept this, not only does our practice become much more effortless, but we also learn to more easily accept the conditions, actions, and realities or situations and people around us.
The heart of the sister sciences of yoga and ayurveda is the recognition of the principle of balance in the natural world. Nature as our teacher give us the opportunity to reflect on and cultivate this principle actively in our yoga asana practice, relationships, food choices, activities, and physical/mental/spiritual lives. It may be helpful when offering your sankalpa/intention at the beginning of your practice & meditation, “How can I more fully achieve balance and how can I support balance for others within my community?”
If the heart, breadth, and depth of yoga is about uniting – within ourselves, and with each other, why is that we sometimes hesitate to shift our mat when a latecomer joins in? Although we may enjoy thinking of ourselves as intensely independent, we are fundamentally social organisms; dependent mammals. For survival, as infants we must instantly engage our parents in protective behavior, and our parents must care enough about us to nurture, feed, and protect us. Compared physically to other mammals, we do not necessarily have an advantage, as other animals can fight better, run faster, and smell, see, and hear better than we can. However, our mind’s ability to plan, communicate, and work together is our major evolutionary advantage. Our happiness, our quality of life, our health and our very survival all depends upon us using this ability to form connections: to sustain long term relationships, and to work with one another collectively, not from our individual might. Judith Lasater writes in her book Living Your Yoga:
“Connection is that process of knowing our importance to the Whole, as well as comprehending that others share this importance with us. When we do so, we are less likely to hate or fear. We can rest, secure in the knowledge that we are all eternal threads in the grand design.”
Teachers may wish to work with one theme per month, and tie all three together during the fourth week of the month. Another way of integrating the theme is to work with finding all three concepts when working in a long hold of a posture. Finally, readings during opening or closing meditation that represent one of the three themes can help to provide a foundation for the beginning of a practice, or a nice closing at the end of a practice.
– kristin cooper-gulak