In this moment
And in this moment, relax
So began the first yoga lesson I took with Rob Obermeyer, which took me straight to the heart of Yoga. And what is the heart of Yoga? A still space, an experience of deep peace, freedom and connection...
So what is Yoga then?
Yoga is... inner peace
Yoga is a state of mind: ‘Yoga is being unaffected by the whirlwinds of the mind', says Yoga philosopher Patanjali in the earliest Yoga 'handbook', the Yoga Sutras. And Yoga is your path to this state of mind, your way of 'putting the mind to rest'. There are of course many paths - that's why there are so many 'Yogas', so many religions and teachers. They have one things in common though: 'Be still...'
Thoughts, feelings and sensations come and go in an endless stream. The mind - "Big Mind" - is still and knows, feels, experiences the stream of phenomena without narrowing itself down to the particular experiences, without being "affected". But we have become strangers to this experience because we have taught our minds other habits, those of a restless monkey that scampers after thoughts and busies itself with beliefs, rules, opinions and judgement. A very busy life! So we need help to find the path back to our original free state. Fortunately there is something that can help us, which is always with us... .
Yoga is... coming home
The body is always present, here, now and without judgement! That is why Hatha Yoga (the 'physical' Yoga best known - and developed into many varieties - in the West) was developed as an accessible form of meditation. Hatha Yoga makes use of movement, postures and breathing exercises which help to anchor the mind in the present moment. Our concentration on what is happening now enables tensions to release their grip on us - not just muscular tension but also the tensions of limiting beliefs, memories and anxieties. Our burden becomes lighter - a taste of enlightenment. The habit of orientation towards what we have, what we think, what we do and what we wants makes way for the experience of simply being aware. We come home, here and now.
'Yoga is being unaffected by the whirlwinds of the mind.
Then the Seer is at home in Itself"
Yoga is... relaxed effort
This accepting awareness of reality means that Yoga can never be goal-oriented or competitive (no, not even with yourself!) It is in fact profoundly non-violent. In Hatha Yoga, non-violence starts at home, with respect for the limits and needs of the body. 'The yoga posture is firm and pleasant,' says Patanjali. The firmness comes from commitment and effort, the pleasantness from the fact that the effort is appropriate and the mind relaxed. And this relaxation is healing, in a sometimes paradoxical way: we simply observe tension and it dissolves; we simply follow the breath and it lengthens and deepens; we simply watch the stream of thoughts and it quietens...
Yoga begins with Mindfulness
Paying attention, being present, aware... Mindfulness in stillness and in movement, at rest and in action. This is the heart of every yoga lesson in The Yoga House, the heart of what we seek to practise and share here. Whether we are exploring a physical exercise or posture ('Hatha Yoga'), discussing a text, practising compassion meditation or raking the leaves...
Why Vermeer's Kitchen maid?