September 6, 2011

Union in Yoga


Currently I am reading a wonderful book of interviews collected by Guy Donahaye and edited with the help of Eddie Stern in a compilation entitled Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – Through the Eyes of His Students. I am so inspired and awe-struck by so many of these interviews. There is a vast wealth of knowledge and experience collected in these pages, presented with deep gratitude and humility by all of these advanced practitioners. Each interview I read gives me a greater appreciation and respect for the power of this practice and the fortitude of the Guru and his relationship to each student.

One of the questions that Mr. Donahaye asks repeatedly is some variation regarding the idea of “householder yoga” and the importance of family and relationship in one’s practice. There are many responses about Guruji’s deep love for Amma and his family. In a number of instances, Guruji encouraged his students to get married and have children and engage in more “worldly” affairs. Guruji taught this powerful yoga to help people be better equipped as human beings, out in the world. He lived as an example that you don’t have to be living as a bramachari alone in a cave to be a great and devout yogi.

Clearly, a consistent spiritual practice such as Ashtanga effects one’s life in all realms.  Your yoga is not confined to the mat. It is virtually impossible to engage in a serious daily practice without having it change your perspective on reality.

Thus I would argue that as a practice, yoga helps one become a better, kinder, more patient and compassionate partner and parent. 

A teacher of mine who I respect and love dearly speaks eloquently about the yogic discipline of conscious partnering and conscious parenting as undervalued roads to enlightenment. There was one response in Guruji that reminded me of these words and rang true in my heart.

Dena Kinsberg speaks,

“Relationships are an essential adjunct and support to yoga practice. The world is our playing field, a stage for transformation in life. The people we share it with, the relationships we have, are the greatest of teachers. We learn so much about our conditioned mind and our patterns of behaviour as we interact with others and our expectations, fears, and attachments rise to the surface. If you are clear enough about your path and you walk it with determination and commitment but with enough compromise to accommodate those around you, then there is nothing more amazing than having companionship on that journey. However, when there are distractions caused by other people, then you are forced to be clear how sincere you are about the practice. Finding the balance is challenging and sometimes difficult, yet this is often where the true yoga lies.”

I am so grateful for my wonderful yogi partner – he keeps me real and is always helping me go further, look deeper and to stay true to my highest self.

No one can do your yoga for you. It is undoubtedly an individual pursuit, but being in a relationship that supports my yoga is invaluable.

I know this because my last relationship went bust and one of the main reasons was that my boyfriend at the time could not really get behind me and my yoga practice. He wasn’t totally against it, and sometimes he would even go to a class with me. But he was not at a place in which he would/could make some of the sacrifices that I deemed necessary for my own personal development along my yoga-life journey. And neither was he able to support me in the choices that I was making (for example, I chose to stop drinking and using substances and he found that to be quite annoying because he still wanted me to go out partying with him).

Because of all that, I am extra aware of how lucky I am to be in a relationship now with a man with a serious practice. I cherish each morning (even those sleepy, groggy ones) walking up to the shala to practice Mysore beside him. Sometimes when we are side by side practicing drop-backs I can’t even believe how lucky I am. I know that his steadfast commitment to his asana practice and bhakti yoga practices helps me hold stronger to my commitments.  (I also know that some mornings I would probably just turn off the alarm and roll over and fall back asleep if he wasn’t around!)

Here is another quote from certified teacher Dena Kinsberg that I found inspiring. Regarding Guruji’s encouragement for her to raise children, Dena said,

“Family was and is everything to Guruji, and I mean both bloodline family and the family of students that he has given and devoted his life to. He said it is important for practitioners to have children. They would be special children. My feeling was that is was a way, a small way, to heal the world.  You start with family.”

To all you blessed and beautiful conscious parents out there – thank you for your service and for offering yourselves humbly and unconditionally to raising your children with love, compassion, truth and righteousness.

Thank you especially to my wonderful mother – I would not be who I am today without you and your selfless love.


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