Yoga Lifestyle in the Modern World
Yoga lifestyle is a life of balance between "cleaning the mirror" and "spreading the Light".
Once a young man wanted to know the meaning of life. He searched high and low; he took courses and workshops; but still he could not quite grasp it.
One day, he went to hear a Master speak. At the end of the lecture, the young man raised his hand and asked: "Could you please explain the meaning of life?"
The audience chuckled at the eternal question and started to get up to leave. The Master replied: "That's a very good question. I have the answer right here in my bag." He took out a small mirror, captured a ray of light with it, and directed the light to the young man's face.
"Can you all see how I am catching the light and directing it to his face?" he asked. "Yes." "The meaning of life," the Master explained, "is to gather Light and to take it where it's needed the most. Your purpose is to capture some Light and take it to some dark place in the world."
Yoga Lifestyle is about two actions: "cleaning the mirror" and "spreading the Light".
The mirror is the mind and body. They have to be clean and pure to catch the light in the first place. Yoga lifestyle is therefore about purifying the mind and keeping the body healthy.
Yoga lifestyle includes certain principles and values, some of which refer to the 5 rules of social conduct, the YAMAS:
AHIMSA = non-violence
SATYA = truthfulness
ASTEYA = non-stealing
BRAHMACHARYA = faithfulness
APARIGRAHA = non-greed
THE REAL PURPOSE of these yoga guidelines is revealed at the bottom of this page. Scroll down to see it, BUT don't miss the Healthy Habits.
on yoga lifestyle:
“When you do something, do it with one hundred percent of the mind. Don’t do it half way. Whatever you do, do it with full concentration. That is Yoga.
It’s not that you are just going into a corner, sitting with the spine erect and then doing some japa or some breathing and that is Yoga. My Yoga is everything. All that you do is Yoga. When you start doing something, do only that — one hundred percent that. ‘Yogaha karmasu kaushalam,’ the Bhagavad Gita says. That means perfection in your every action is Yoga.”
AHIMSA is the first and (commonly thought of as) the most important yoga principle.
AHIMSA applies to everything:
- How we treat ALL other beings;
- How we treat OUR OWN bodies and minds;
- How we think and what we think about;
- How we talk and what we talk about; and
- How we eat and what we eat.
Gandhi dedicated his life to AHIMSA. He was a great yogi and a great example of the yoga lifestyle. He personalized AHIMSA to such an extent that India regained National Independence from the British rule under his guidance.
AHIMSA could well be the MOST IMPORTANT yoga practice.
Healthy Habit #0-1 Practice AHIMSA in one
or more areas of your life.
Use any of the above suggestions or your own. For example, treat every creature with love and care, or treat your own body with love as if it was a sacred temple which houses the soul, or eliminate any aggression from your speech.
SATYA is the second most important principle of the yoga lifestyle.
Do you know the common AHIMSA/SATYA dilemma?
Have you ever been in a situation when the truth would be hurtful or harmful to someone? What's the right thing to do: to say the truth and be hurtful, or lie and save someone the embarrassment?
The answer is "WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT HARM; LET YOUR EVERY ACTION BENEFIT AT LEAST ONE AND HARM NO-ONE."
Bottom Line: Tell the truth BUT do it diplomatically.
Healthy Habit #0-2 Practice SATYA diplomatically.
Ask yourself before you speak to someone: Will this action bring benefit to at least one, and hurt no-one?
Below is a well-known story to illustrate the point.
SATYA OR AHIMSA
"Once, a beautiful young princess was being chased by a bandit. She was running through the forest, crying and praying, when suddenly she came upon a yogi seated in a meditative posture in front of his forest cave.
'Please, sir,' she cried, 'Let me hide in your cave, I am being chased by a bandit who wants to kill me!' Without getting a response, she hid inside the cave.
In a few seconds, a big angry man came running with a big knife.
'Hey, you, did you see a girl here?' he yelled at the yogi. 'She stole from me. Where did she go?'
What does the yogi say? What is more important: to save the girl's life (AHIMSA) or tell the bandit the truth (SATYA)?
The yogi says: "I didn't see anyone who stole from you."
Integrating the first two principles of yoga is an art and a life-long yoga lifestyle practice.
ASTEYA refers to taking only what we need, and leaving the rest to others.
How much do we need?
... Only as much as necessary for our survival in terms of basic needs of nourishment and comfort. Just enough (of material possessions) to be able to perform our life's work.
Owning three cars, each for a different occasion, would probably classify as breaking this principle.
ASTEYA also implies being thankful for what we already have. Not stealing, and NOT WANTING to steal more.
"All of us are thieves", my teacher, Swami Satchidananda (a real yoga lifestyle master) comments in his book. "Knowingly or unknowingly, we steal things from nature. With every breath, we pick nature's pocket. But that doesn't mean that we need to stop breathing." Instead, we should be thankful for each breath, and use it to serve others. Then, we are not stealing, we are using it to serve.
Everything should be done that way - with the thought of helping others in some way.
A South Indian proverb says, "The stomach is crying for a piece of bread; the hair is crying for a bunch of flowers." Which is more important? The hair can live without a garland, but the stomach has to eat.
There are people on this planet who are sick and dying while a handful of others want to go to the moon.
When should we go to the moon?
... Only after making the Earth happy.
Healthy Habit #0-3
Take only what you need.
And what you take, use it to help others.
Ask yourself before making a decision to get something: Am I stealing it from anyone, or from nature? Will I be able to use it to improve the lives of others and benefit the planet?
Swami Satchidananda on the importance of moderation:
“Yoga is not for the person who eats too much, or who starves him or herself. Yoga is not for the person who sleeps too much, or who doesn’t sleep at all. The middle path is Yoga. The Yogi knows how much to eat, to sleep, to speak. That is the middle path. It is the Buddha’s teaching also, the golden medium. You should go neither to that extreme, nor to this extreme. So, don’t abruptly cut off your senses. Allow the senses to enjoy the world, but don’t get carried away with them. If we know there is a limitation in everything, then life will be good to us."
BRAHMACHARYA, faithfulness, is the fourth yoga lifestyle principle. It doesn't only refer to your relationships. It encompasses ALL areas of your life as well: your teachers, your friends, your principles and values, and your commitments.
Healthy Habit #0-4 Practice BRAHMACHARYA.
As you take on a task, a new endeavor, a new step, ssk yourself: Am I betraying any of my relationships, principles, promises, and commitments?
APARIGRAHA, non-greed, is better described as non-hoarding, and is related to ASTEYA.
It implies LIVING SIMPLY.
Our convenience-based society and consumerist culture put the pressure that we need more stuff. As modern yogis, we should keep the values of SIMPLICITY and MINIMALISM to maintain the yoga lifestyle.
Healthy Habit #0-5 Practice APARIGRAHA.
Ask yourself before taking a new step: Will this new (...) help me to make other people's lives better? Is this (...) a real necessity for my yogic living?
THE REAL (SECRET) PURPOSE OF THE YAMAS
Here, we must think of the REAL PURPOSE OF YOGA itself.
What does yoga (as a science and a practical method) aim to achieve?
... Lasting Inner Peace and Happiness.
Now, let me make it a little more complicated.
In order to achieve real lasting happiness, one must learn how to control one's mind perfectly. That, according to yoga, is the most difficult thing to do in the whole world. To control one's mind perfectly, in any situation. When you are in control, you can choose to experience lasting Inner Peace and Happiness.
To begin to get a handle on the mind, we must practice limiting the common distractions.
What distracts and disturbs the mind?
1. Violence, and violent thoughts.
2. Lies and untruths, which keep bothering the mind and our conscience long after they have been said.
3. Guilt that we may feel after stealing or taking more than we really need.
4. Being unfaithful will bother you, long after the unfaithful act.
5. And having more things that you need will keep your mind preoccupied on the things, material possessions, rather than on the Inner Peace and Happiness.
As you can see, these are the reverse of the YAMAS.
Practicing the YAMAS is the core of the yoga lifestyle. Practicing the YAMAS will gradually minimize the distractions and make your mind fit for ENLIGHTENMENT, which is the DIRECT EXPERIENCE of lasting INNER PEACE and HAPPINESS WITHIN.
If the YAMAS are too unrealistic at this point, start with the These 12 Healthy Habits.
Yoga Lifestyle Home
|Disclaimer: The contents of this website are based upon the opinions, research, and experiences of Surya (Slava Kolpakov), unless otherwise noted. The information on this website is not intended to treat, prescribe, diagnose, or replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or yoga therapist and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.|