What an interesting world we’re living in right now, where truthfulness, accountability, and right action are commonly questioned and looked at with a discerning eye. Luckily, we aspiring yogis who f
ollow the path of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are required to always be truthful through one of the social disciplines, or yamas. That social discipline is that of satya, which literally means “to speak the truth,” and while in theory it seems easy enough, there are many levels of the truthfulness that could create obstacles when working toward on honest existence. Below are some things to consider about our daily lives and following the discipline of truthfulness as we journey on our yogic path.
When one thinks of speaking the truth, we naturally associate that with our communication with others. In a paper published in 2010 in Human Communication Research, psychologist found that the average number of lies people tell per day is 1.65 lies. Doing pretty good, people! We might think that it would be higher considering that in our present society, the modes of communication seem endless. We have face to face, phone, snail mail (what’s that?), email, text, social media, and we’d think that each allow for a little more bending of the truth than the next. However, according to research done at Cornell University, the use of technology keeps us more honest, realizing that there’s a “digital trail” (formerly known as a paper trail, remember that?). We actually end up lying more face to face or over the phone because there is no record of what was said. Hmmm, sounds like we might need to work on the correlation between our audial communication and our “little white lies.”
Next, in regards to satya, how honest are we with ourselves? This is a different level of honesty where there is only personal accountability. Another way of thinking about lying to ourselves is the big ‘D’ word: Denial. You may have heard this acronym before, “Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying.” According to an article in Psychology Today there are 8 most common lies we tell ourselves, which include ignorance is bliss, how we like to be seen, and cherry picking data. (If you want to read the full article, click here.) While denial and self-deception may be an evolutionary survival skill, having awareness of our common self-lies might be a good method for us to stop and reflect on some of your own motivations and what you consider to be your “personal truths.”
The last aspect of truthfulness that we’ll mention is that of the honesty behind our actions. In yoga philosophy, we are asked over and over again to look at the intention behind the deeds that we do. The Buddha delineates the distinction between right and wrong intention. Right intention includes the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The opposite intentions include the intention governed by desire, the intention governed by ill will, and the intention governed by harmfulness. Right intention is the basis for right thinking and truthful and non-deceitful actions.
This post is only to offer some moments of self-reflection and self-study, which is naturally part of our ongoing yoga practice. We’ll finish with the words from Swami Satchidananda about satya, “With establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes. One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life. When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book. But this comes only with an absolutely honest mind. When the mind becomes clear and serene, the true Self reflects without disfigurement, and we realize the Truth in its own original nature.” Sounds to us like to bliss and real freedom.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States today. It doesn’t take a diagnosis to feel the impact. Whether it’s your own occasional suffering or a loved one’s persistent condition, anxiety crops up everywhere — draining life of its color, leaving exhausted humans in its wake.
This month we bring you tools to address the anxiety in your life, taught by yogis for millennia. While not a replacement for therapy or medication, yoga offers its practitioners many resources to access calm and peace even when these feel far away.
Some of the many tools of yoga:
Breath awareness, or pranayama practices. Ranging from the simple to the adventurous, yoga’s breath practices offer a way to become grounded and embodied, pulling the practitioner out of head space and into body space.
This month your teachers will guide you through breath awareness and breath techniques.
Gaze points, or drishti. Yoga is very concerned with focusing the mind. Its underlying assumption is that each of us has the power to tame the mind as a charioteer might tame horses. Focusing the eyes on a single spot is just one way to reign in the mind and to bring it under conscious control.
Notice when your instructor suggests where you should gaze.
Movement, or asana. Not everyone feels relaxed or at ease when they sit down, for instance to meditate. Agitating thoughts, like memories and worries, can sometimes be more noisy when all is still. Physical movement provides a way to lull and vitalize the mind and body, bringing them into better connection, stimulating happiness hormones and elevating mood.
The hearty part of any yoga class, consider how breath, gaze, mind and body come into balance when you’re doing asana.
Meditation. Anxiety and related disorders can have the effect of tightening and constricting consciousness. Sometimes done prior to movement, sometimes done afterward, meditation has the power to give you access to a wider field of awareness, bringing stressful thoughts into perspective, calming the nervous system, and kicking on the restorative centers of the brain.
Even a single minute of meditation can have a powerful effect. Your teachers can point you to more opportunities to learn how to meditate, if that interests you.
Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep. Yoga nidra is a restorative practice wherein the instructor guides you into a rested waking state while your body is positioned comfortably. The usual brain centers get a break and the healing centers work their magic.
TYH teacher Susan DeRyder and her partner Shawn are offering Asana and Sound Healing with yoga nidra this month, Friday, Sept. 28th, 7:30-9:30pm.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and yoga’s true impact comes when it is practiced regularly and over the long term as a lifestyle. Tune in to your teachers’ suggestions all month long. Balanced, peaceful, calm and joyful people are especially needed right now, and all the work you do to embody these qualities has a ripple effect “out there.”
Thanks for your commitment to the practice. See you on the mat <3.
Yogis have long sought to understand the cause of human suffering. As in many spiritual traditions, the aim has been to minimize suffering and maximize fulfillment. At the core of most needless suffering, argues this lineage, are habits of the mind, which, when left unexamined and untrained, can leave us in a state of lack, isolation, and anxiety.
The upshot is that each of us can learn which aspects of the mind tend to cause our superfluous pain. Armed with this information, we can stop painful thought habits in their tracks.
The mind, in Patanjalian terms, is comprised of four basic components:
Chitta, the storehouse of memories; Manas, sensory processing; Buddhi, discernment; and Ahamkara, the notion of “I.”
The categories may appear to simplify what goes on in the ol’ noggin, but upon closer examination they’re pretty darn comprehensive. What follows is just a taste and, truthfully, an oversimplification.
So Where Do you Get Stuck?
If you tend to get caught in chitta, you may have a habit of recalling the past and dwelling there a bit more than feels good. Do you play your own embarrassing moments on the screen of your mind? Do you tend to ruminate about past hurts to the detriment of your enjoyment now? A certain amount of this is unavoidable and even necessary, but catch yourself if these habits lead you to any shade of misery.
Or, you may spend your mental resources envisioning and perhaps worrying about future events. This is another way chitta strikes, most often subconsciously. Again, we need a little bit of prior planning to function at our best, but watch out when your time spent in the imagined future eclipses your time spent in the eternal now.
Manas Manas, or the lower mind, is that which keeps us bound to sensory experience. On the positive (and essential) side, it facilitates our interaction with the world around us and puts us in touch with our senses. It processes information coming through the visual and other sensory centers, helping us to understand the environment and our relationship to it.
At its worst, it binds us to passing whims and gruff desires as though the cerebral cortex weren’t a thing. It’s what guides a guilty dog. Akin to the Freudian Id, “Me see x. Me like x,” might be its reductionist essence. To keep manas in its rightful position, we develop the layer of awareness that deciphers incoming stimuli with any eye toward consequences — that’s buddhi.
Buddhi Buddhi is thought to be the most sattvic (or pure)aspect of mind. It’s our ability to discern and decipher, helping us for instance to understand the difference between a painful option and a desirable one. But when buddhi has led you down a path of suffering, it often looks like “analysis paralysis.” Have you ever caught yourself considering something — anything! a person, a situation, a decision — from a thousand and one angles? What begins as enjoyable consideration becomes a quagmire of speculation, indecision and prolonged over-analysis.
If you’re an over-analyzer, or if judgment and criticism tend to be your oft-tread avenues for emotional affliction, hey, the first step is admitting it! Rather than be ruled by your mind, yoga teaches that you can bring your mind into balance with focused practice (Hello, gaze points, breath work, asana, self study, and meditation).
Finally, ahamkara, or ego, is that which holds us in a perpetual state of “I-ness” and therefore, too easily, isolation and alienation. Although totally necessary for healthy functioning, ahamkara is the self-same aspect of mind that will tell you things like: I am better than he is. Or, I don’t measure up to her because—. Or, I deserve this more than they do because—. I was slighted the other day when—. I feel insulted because—.
Ahamkara’s most clever work is its subtlest. It doesn’t always show up as a pompous, egregious, “me, me, me” sort of state. It’s more likely to operate just underneath conscious awareness, offering little subliminal messages that tear you down or build you up but ultimately keep you from feeling connected to and at one with the life forms who make up your earthly family.
May this model of the mind-field help you to catch yourself in unnecessary suffering, and may your time on the mat shed light on what it feels like to tend to a mindscape in harmony and at peace.
We knew when we opened the studio that we were signing ourselves up to meet a lot of people, and we have to admit, we didn’t give this aspect of the enterprise a ton of thought. We figured we would meet many nice people, many hardworking people, perhaps (just the universe’s way of keeping things interesting…) a rare ornery sort. But on the whole we expected to be interacting with mostly warm, well-meaning fellow humans. The matter took up very little brain space, and we had no way of anticipating the substance, nuance, reality, and boon, of participating in so many relationships over the years.
It’s difficult not to use superlative language when we consider how many people have simply floored us by their level of commitment to service work or by the creativity and accomplishments they’re often keeping secret. Obviously you don’t have to be harboring some surreptitious superpower to be an amazing person, but so many of you are dedicating your lives to life-affirming projects that we want to say a few words about it.
Here’s a quick portrait of the sort of lives converging in the yoga rooms on Broadway and Crown Street:
Craftspeople and artists who are seriously — like, intimidatingly — good at what they do: digital designers, muralists, sculptors, clothing-makers, interactive space builders, writers, filmmakers, and photographers — just to get started.
Leaders running mission-driven, non-profit organizations dedicated to serving the underserved in the U.S. and in developing countries.
Unsung parents and single parents running the show for their children at the same time that they maintain a career and a personal practice.
Angel-style selfless servants who perform (often anonymously) time-consuming, labor-intensive acts of succor, requesting exactly nothing in return.
Activists and involved citizens expending heroic personal resources to organize and raise awareness in various spheres.
Clearly, we could go on. But our aim is not to celebrate individual accomplishments. We want to point out that each of us has an opportunity to join collaborative arms with the many competent, incredible people in our midst. And doing so has more to do with the yoga practice than meets the eye.
If you are at all interested in inquiring into the workings of ego (in Sanskrit it’s ahamkara, the notorious“I-maker”), there is perhaps no better way than to work closely with another person. Wow oh wow, does such a partnership reflect back in crystal clarity our blind spots. If we are willing to see our defensiveness, our conceit, our excuses, our self-defeating tendencies, our inner bully or inner victim presented before us on a platter to confront — we’ll want to partner up.
Working with someone on a project that demands our functioning at full capacity is like being put through emotional maturity boot camp. If you see a chance to do it, seize it! And then do two more things, quickly:
Establish a gratitude practice that speaks louder than any interpersonal griping;
Understand and embrace the precept that most of the disappointments, criticisms, or irritations you have involving the other party are actually an invaluable schooling in your own unexamined (let’s call it…) stuff.
The payoffs: Uniting consciousness with someone else’s to become a more expansive locus of awareness. Removing the layers of personhood that have kept us in separation and delusion, moving closer to citta vrtti nirodhah, a lucid head, open and untied to disturbances. Perceiving how our very energy impacts other beings. Discerning which energies facilitate our joy and growth and which to keep at arm’s length. Knowing when our own energy body needs a little caressing before it’s presented to others. Developing self trust and sturdy confidence as we understand our strengths and gifts. Grounding ourselves in the reality beyond our own container. Recognizing ourselves as a vital piece of the cosmic unity.
There is so much inner seeing to be had by, as a friend says, “bouncing our molecules off of other people.” And there is so much light to be spread when brilliant minds with genuine hearts plug into one another.
‘Cause we can work around the clock by ourselves, but when we link our efforts to someone else’s, the results really are greater than the sum of their parts. It’s been a gift to collaborate on partner projects with so many of you, and we are optimistic when we consider the many fruitful shifts that can take place when we are co-creating a future.With love,Leigha & Jacqui
Held at the Midtown location, 474 Broadway Ave., Kingston
Come explore the depths of Yin Yoga and the philosophy behind teaching this practice with Bobbie Marchand of Prema Yoga in Brooklyn, NY. This course will meet the guidelines for a 30-hour Yin Certification for Continuing Education with the Yoga Alliance. The Yin training is open to both teachers who want to add this to their set of teaching skills and to those students who want to deepen their knowledge of the Yin practice.
In this training student will explore:
a deeper place of connection and understanding of your own practice (that’s where your teaching voice comes from)
Yin Yoga history & philosophy
Connective Tissue: the star of the show in this method and how is relates to the physical, mental/emotional and subtle bodies
how to set the ‘mood’ of the practice; evoking and maintaining the space of quiet, thoughtful attention
Support: the appropriate use of props, touch and language
For those interested in teaching, a separate, final teaching examination will be scheduled.
Outside practice and study time is strongly encouraged.
Tuition is $300 or $275 for graduates of The Yoga House’s 200-hour Yoga teacher Training programs. A non-refundable $75 deposit is due by May 5th, 2017, to secure a place in the intensive. The remaining balance is due the first night of the weekend (May 19, 2017). Payment plans available for additional fee. Tuition does not include the required text.
Bobbie Marchand, in pursuing her love of dance, moved from her native Toronto to NY in 2005. Though the transition of dancer to yoga teacher is a common one, it was an illness that tuned her in to the power of a daily, dedicated practice. Bobbie’s Vinyasa classes are creative, challenging and fun. Drawing on her dance background, the sequencing is expressive and fluid while encouraging alignment (and a healthy use of props!). Her yin/stretch/restorative classes are an invitation to pause, yield to the sense of support, turn inward and take the practice to a quiet, nourishing place away from the external stress of our busy lives. Endless gratitude to teachers Diana Lockett, Amanda Harding and Raghunath for their encouragement, support and loving guidance on this incredible journey.