Pop culture yoga wisdom.
For those immersed in the yogic lifestyle, there is a tendency to encounter situations and think, “How yogic!” You might be a yogi if you hear the nursery rhyme “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and think, “What a perfect example of abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment to results).”
This comparison is, however, not the standard. So while yoga may greatly inform many of our lifestyle choices, a large majority of the population finds its truth in other ways.
This was recently highlighted for me when, after verbosely articulating the many virtues of yogic philosophy to a friend, I was met less with a “Wow!” than a “Duh.” As a cow-eating atheist, she had come to many of the same realizations, simply via a different route.
Immediately following, I removed myself from, and recycled, my soapbox.
Self-righteousness is one of the qualities I’m earnestly attempting to offload, and yet my attachment is evidently strong. The break-up is a process.
The conversation set me thinking in depth about the different ways similar sentiments permeate seemingly disparate cultural enclaves. This idea can be observed simply by turning on the radio.
Musical artists, while they may not be of yogic orientation, share many ideas similar to those espoused by yogic philosophy. Following, in no particular order, is a minute sampling of deep universal wisdom transmitting on radio waves near you.
1. “As Long as You Love Me”—Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean
“The grass ain’t always greener on the other side; it’s greener where you water it.”
“Just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You’ve gotta get up and try, try, try.”
Especially in regard to group asana classes, we show up because we know if we stay home and practice we might just stick to supported backbends and savasana. And while wonderful poses, they can only do so much in terms of our asana evolutions.
Oftentimes, it is by having a teacher put us in poses that literally burn that we get stronger and learn that if we try, try, try, we really can accomplish more than we think.
3. “Jolene”—Dolly Parton
“I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene! Please don’t take him just because you can.”
The yogic yama (ethical rule) Asteya refers to non-stealing. Not taking what is not yours comes from having an internal sense of abundance and being fulfilled without having a new iPhone, eating that fourth cupcake, or taking that girl’s boyfriend just because you can.
4. “You Learn”—Alanis Morissette
“You grieve, you learn; you choke, you learn. You laugh, you learn; you choose, you learn. You pray, you learn; you ask, you learn. You live, you learn.”
Each situation in life can teach us something, if we chose to look at it in such a light. And while your co-worker might not appreciate the response of, “It’s a teachable moment!” after she gets passed up for a promotion, seeing teachers everywhere is an interesting principle to try on in your own approach to life.
5. “Wide Awake”—Katy Perry
“I’m wide awake, and now it’s clear to me that everything you see ain’t always what it seems. I’m wide awake. Yeah, I was dreaming for so long.”
The primary goal of yoga is to eliminate suffering through waking up to the true nature of reality by removing the veil of ignorance. And, while most will confess that this is no easy task, through the yoga practice—slowly, slowly—the layers that cloud our visions begin to recede and we experience a gradual reawakening to our true natures.
6. “Coming in from the Cold”—Bob Marley
“Well, why do you look so, look so, look so sad, look so sad and forsaken? Don’t you know? When one door is closed, when one door is closed, many more is open.”
Yoga is interested in how perspectives affect our outlooks on the world. With asana we get upside down and twisted around, and in doing so literally change our relationships to life.
Many turn to yoga in response to aching backs or excessive stress. The circumstances that propel us to the mat are typically considered bad, and yet if it weren’t for those challenges, the doors to the yoga studios might never otherwise open for us.
7. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”—Poison
“Every rose has its thorn.”
If this isn’t illustrative of non-duality, then really, what is?
8. “On the Radio”—Regina Spektor
“This is how it works; you’re young until you’re not; you love until you don’t; you try until you can’t. You laugh until you cry; you cry until you laugh, and everyone must breathe, until their dying breath.”
Life happens—all of the good stuff and all the crappy stuff—and it’s all just part of the mix. Instead of clinging to the pleasurable and running from the pain, perhaps, through cogitating on impermanence, we can appreciate and be present with, yet unattached to, all the feelings and emotions that arise.
9. “Aerials”—System of a Down
“When you lose small mind, you free your life. Aerials, so up high. When you free your eyes, eternal prize.”
What is Samadhi (for one million points)? Even if we don’t reach it this time around, at least, through the study of yoga, we begin to create the conditions for it to one day manifest.
Gandhi wisely suggested, “Truth is one, paths are many.” It really doesn’t matter if people find truth via yoga, or love, or religion, or CrossFit or music. When we let the details cloud the wisdom that links all people, religions, lifestyles and cultures, we miss the point. The point is not whether I am right and you are wrong, it’s that we all are searching for truth and happiness; we just stumble and saunter toward it via our own paths. The point is that meaning can be extracted from virtually any aspect of life and can be used to further our understanding of what this existence is all about.
Miriah Wall is a yogi who enjoys cooking, running, biking, reading, snowboarding, travel, friends, family, and fun. She believes in the importance of cultivating a holistic approach to health and consequently, as she works on her Masters in Clinical Psychology, she is also continuing her yoga teacher training, as well as exploring the effects of nutrition and meditation on well being. Miriah feels strongly that physical, mental, and spiritual health must be fostered in individuals in order to see positive change in society. She looks forward to having a practice in which yoga, meditation, nutrition, relationships, laughter, and love all play central roles in creating healthy and happy individuals and community.
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~ Assistant Ed: Thandiwe Ogbonna