Living simply in complex times Can it make you happy?
A yoga life is meant to be a simple life, free from attachments and with a mind that can transcend the 5 senses to experience life from the sixth sense of intuition. But yoga in our life, in general, can be quite complicated. What type of yoga should I do? I can afford? How do I learn it? Who do I learn from? If it is a spiritual practice, why do I have to pay for it? Today I received an email newsletter that has the top 10 yoga clothing designers to choose from. Oh! Now we have to pay for yoga clothes and also a “yoga look”?
The Yoga Sutras of Pahtanjali give us many insights into what yoga is. II: 42 says “Because of satisfaction, there is an unsurpassed achievement of happiness” and Yogi Bhajan told us that happiness is our birthright.
The truth is that our lives feel increasingly complicated. Perhaps that is why many turn to yoga. Stress levels have risen, people are taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and sleep medications to cope with their daily lives. The pressures of these times are reflected in our economy, our healthcare system, our health problems and our lives.
The world is no longer a simple place. The economy is global. We are all aware of the need to return to a simpler way of life to save our planet: our air, water, food and all living species. Many yogis are jumping on the trend train, but are we really heeding the message in our own lives? Many are, in small ways and in great effort. Linda Rowe, the yoga teacher in Houlton, Maine, built a house with her husband David that was totally eco-friendly, using sunbathing and compost. The house is beautiful and built with the help of friends and proof that it doesn’t take a big budget to go green.
Being on a budget is actually a great way to live more simply. We often generate less waste and excess this way. If you don’t have the budget for ongoing yoga classes, grab a few to get started, see if you can volunteer or swap a few classes. Ask the teacher for a routine at home. Buy a DVD to practice at home or check out a book or video / DVD from the library. The best and most basic yoga practice is sun salutations. (See the end of the article for a description.) While it’s a lot of fun to challenge yourself to more than this, with a few sun salutations a day you can develop a practice that will give you more. flexibility and strength. Adding a little pranayam to your practice allows you to realize the full potential of the breath to deliver life-giving prana to our cells, internal organs, and systems. As we breathe deeply, we can momentarily free our mind from attachments to the things we think we are missing in our life, unfulfilled dreams and desires, and simply be free in the moment. A yoga practice can be very simple to have profound effects. Decreasing the breath, suspending and holding the breath, can change the patterns in our way of thinking, feeling and being. We may not be able to control certain external aspects of our lives, but with yoga we can learn to control our mind, body, breath, and our reactions to things. Everything seems a little simpler in those moments.
In a yogi life we also practice being harmless and truthful. This really makes life simpler, living auntie, without having to watch your back or remember a lie you told someone! We can take that of not hurting ourselves in our physical practice (who said that we have to push ourselves to adopt impossible postures?) To the words we say to others and to ourselves. Are we really making our lives more complicated than we need to just by what we say and think? We could sit quietly for a few minutes following the flow of our breath and wonder what we could change so as not to complicate life!
The fact is that human beings are complicated, each and every one of us, but it is the way we handle all of our components – emotional, physical, mental, psychological, spiritual – that helps us create the physical and mental balance that attain yoga. We can create rituals so that our practice supports a balanced life, but we must also allow ourselves to be flexible. If you feel guilty and angry at yourself for not exercising more or meditating more, or at exactly the same time every day, this will only cause more stress and imbalance.
No matter who we are and how much we practice, we live in this world. We have real problems. With yoga we have asanas to purify the body. We have tools to help our minds see things more clearly so that we can live simply. Yoga is an art and a science. In short, yoga is helping us live to be happier. Yoga has become so popular that some teachers are reaching the masses and are true money-making machines. Perhaps the teachers who are not reaching the masses, attending to the star system in which our culture thrives, are the ones who live more simply like the yogis of yesteryear. That is for our hearts and theirs to decide. Whatever form you take and whatever speaks to you, yoga is a practice that can ease your burden and make life seem a little easier.
Here is a meditation for internal tension and stress:
The fingers are related to the brain, so see if you can do this hand position as specified and keep it complete.
Place your hands like a lotus flower in front of the middle of your chest.
Let the pinkies and thumbs (tips) meet on each hand.
Let the three middle fingers of each hand meet and be straight. DO NOT touch the pinkies or thumbs.
Close your eyes one tenth open, looking at the tip of your nose (this fixes your mind)
Inhale through the nose
Exhale through your mouth
Inhale through the mouth
Exhale through your nose
Continue to focus on creating this breathing pattern for 11 minutes while keeping your hands in position and your eyes fixed on the tip of your nose the entire time (better to use a timer).
At the end, inhale through your nose, close your eyes, hold your breath, and then release it when necessary. Repeat this two more times.
Relax your hands and take a few minutes to sit or lie down and see how you feel.
Sun Salutations – There are many variations of these, but this is a basic one. All breathing is through the nose.
1-Stand with your feet together and parallel, hands at your sides, feel the flow of your breath.
2-Join your hands in the middle of the chest.
3-Inhale, bring your arms up and let your palms come together (or not) and drop your head back if it is comfortable for your neck.
4-Exhale and bend your body in half, dropping your head and bringing your hands to the ground (if you can, the hands are right next to and outside of your feet)
5-Inhale and take a step with your right foot back, leaving the knee down or up.
6-The left foot is between the hands until you inhale it back to find the right.
Keep breathing and hold the plank (front pushup position) for a few moments.
7-Drop your knees to the ground and carefully bring your body to the mat (face down) on an exhale.
8-Place your hands under your shoulders and inhale, lift your chest, taking care to keep your shoulders down and back, and slightly raise your head if that’s okay for your neck (this is cobra).
9-Hold the posture to breathe once or twice and then inhale onto your hands and knees.
10- On the next inhale, lift the tailbone towards the ceiling downward, spread the fingers and press the cures of the feet and hands (as well as the fingers) to the floor. (the body looks like an inverted V).
Stay here for up to 5 long, deep breaths through your nose.
11-Inhale, bring your right foot forward, exhale. (take a step or walk with your foot forward between your hands).
12-Inhale, bring your left foot forward, exhale your bent knees.
13-Inhale, lift your head, push your lower back down and your head up, squeeze your legs now.
14-Exhale, drop your head on your knees and lengthen the spine as much as you can, keep your legs straight if you can, bend them if necessary (for the less flexible).
15-Inhale, lift the body and arms up, the palms are above the head (or not).
16-Exhale the forearms to the sides.
That’s a full sun salutation, do 2-3 minimum and up to 5 to start. Now you have a simple yoga routine and meditation! Do the sun salutations as a physical warm-up and then meditation or simple breathing exercises sitting cross-legged or in a chair with a straight spine.
Donna (Amrita) Davidge has been teaching yoga since 1985 in New York City. In 1997 he opened Sewall House Yoga Retreat in Island Falls, Maine, offering guests the opportunity to learn and practice yoga in small non-competitive classes, with personalized attention and in his great-grandfather’s historic home, which offers an atmosphere of a time simpler with the beautiful antiques and energy of your ancestors. Her husband Kent Bonham is the chef, musician and oversees the work-study program at the retreat. [http://www.sewallhouse.com/info]@ sewallhouse.com with questions about yoga, questions about retreats. 888-235-2395.