Yoga for householders is a term I heard for the first time at The Yoga Institute in Santacruz, Mumbai.
It is yoga for those who live in society, care for heir family and have responsibility in their communities. Yoga for householders is based on the Bakhti yoga, devotion to God or Guru, and Karma yoga, selfless service to the family and community.
Yoga for householders is neither better or worst then yoga of renunciates, traditionally men that give up their possessions and family to live the life of monks or wandering sadhus. It is just two different paths, different choices.
Leaving India and getting far from my “yoga family” in Mumbai, I found it extremely difficult to keep with yoga practice, or at least what is often considered as a practice in western culture: asanas. Moving to a new country with three teenagers, settling down a new house, and establishing new schools and new friends was (and still is) demanding. I went through the phase of stubbornness, giving up, struggling, frustration… until I came to really understand that “What we resist, persists”.
Yoga is much more than asana and sweating on the mat, and I understood that this was my opportunity to learn the true meaning of the yoga for householders: selfless service and devotion, whatever may happen.
Sounds too good to be true. There are definitely moments when I just want to scream enough! There are moments I don’t want to get out of my bed. It is a typical rollercoster; the ups and down of everyday life much includes much less glamour than we share on our Facebook wall. There is another aspect of daily life that causes imbalance: confusion. I felt very confused the last few months while constantly treading the thin line between listening to intuition, and giving into my own coloring of mind. Do I correctly hear my inner voice or it is just other misinterpretation, other Maya operating?
I remember what my tutor wrote me: “The world is as real as it gets. Individually, we distort it. “
So how am I distorting the reality? When and how to find the balance again? Impatient, I forget to be humble. I forget that the path means to walk by putting one foot in front of other. I concentrate on the negative instead of focusing on the positive. I lose the Faith in the fact that universe will provide exactly what I need and when I need it, including the doubts and the downs of the rollercoster. I listen to my students and my friends and it seems often obvious that they just don’t see the reality, however I am completely blind to my own issues.
I gained a little clarity a few weeks ago, while having a great time with my daughter and listening to her stories. She pointed out that I complain about the people complaining all the time…and what about myself? Great lesson from a 15 year old. We were on urban holidays in New York and we had a morning of fun making pictures of asanas for householders. I’d been thinking of the project for a while, something to create and share with my “lady students”, and this was the right impulse to finally realize it. Stop complaining: you cannot find the time for classes in yoga studio, you are missing your Mumbai teacher…
Stop the stress and do your best with what you have.
At home, since that moment, I try at least stretch while performing my household duties. I do an ironing meditation, enjoying (well, I do my best) the activity that I have been repulsed by for years. Cultivate the opposite is the order of the day. I try to practice the mindful cooking and be here and not somewhere else while cutting the onions and boiling the eggs. How many times do we burn or overcook something because our mind is wandering somewhere else?
I push sometimes a little further while using my cooking desk to stretch for Nataraj, use the Mountain pose to empty my dishwasher and work on my hamstrings while looking for the stuff down in my cupboards. Let’s be honest, it is more for the fun of it, some simple stretching.
But it is my way to keep in touch, to be aware that I am missing the physical practice, and remember my body.
I use the red traffic lights on my way to the school as a breathing time. Let go of the stress, work on my patience and find calm even if I know that I’m running late. Deep abdominal breathing on the first light, intercostal on the second. Combine the both on the next. Or just to observe: Am I breathing? Take a deep breath…and go for the green. My 40 minutes of traffic can become 20 minutes of deep breathing, so on the way back I am a compassionate listener for my kids.
As much as I am pulled between homework, ironing, and the lack of “yoga practice in the studio with a teacher”, I realize that I can bring awareness, true yoga practice, to everything I do during my day. I surrender to the path I am walking, and accept my responsibility to make time for everything.
We tend to say: We cannot have it all. Yes, we can! We just have to see it from the right perspective and apply what we learn in yoga classes: Abhyasa and Vairagya, otherwise known as Practice and Detachment.
We have to continue our persistent effort, tranquility of the mind, and detachment from the outcome of our efforts, fears and false identities. Easy to say, hard to practice, but is it not the same in the yoga class?
The most important part of the practice is to bring the awareness in my relationships with other people. Not only with the new friends I make and meet, but more then ever in my own family. Times of change are hard for all of us, and kids are particularly vulnerable. Going through a deep physical and emotional transformation is already big challenge. My family added to this stress a new country and new educational system and our children struggle to find the balance.
It is the true challenge to find not only my balance, but to guide my children to find theirs.
As a yoga teacher I teach mostly women, and most of them are struggling with the same issues: family, friends, parents getting older, job that takes a lot or the lack of job, difficult economic situation and uncertainty of the future. The teaching of impermanence, detachment, compassion and more importantly of self love and self acceptance is where yoga brings the immeasurable benefits.
In Mumbai, I use to drive around the statue of mother and child which read: Child is giving birth to a Mother. Well, the Students are giving birth to the Teacher.
I would like to thank to all of those marvelous women for being here, sharing, struggling and learning with me:
Edited by Jill Barth.