Asteya: non stealing

Asteya: non stealing

Asteya is the third in Yamas also known as the restrains. I have already discussed Ahimsa and Satya in previous posts that you can read by clicking on their names. Asteya is also known as non stealing or non covetousness. It sounds pretty straightforward, don’t steal, but it’s more than just don’t steal things or object, it means, do not take from yourself or others both physically and emotionally.

Asteya teaches us that everything and everyone in our lives is precious and should not be taken advantage of. How many times have you given things away without thinking about how it will affect you later? And I don’t mean stuff or money, I mean your time, your energy, your emotions, and all those other things of that intangible nature.

Interpersonal relationship are challenging. I haven’t had a single relationship in my life that didn’t come with its own set of trials and tribulations. I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t challenged me as a person. Those connections to our friends and family are the single most important in our life. That’s not to say that every family has to be your blood relatives, your family is made up of the people who you care about the most.

There is risk in giving away your love and affection to others, whether they be friends, family, or lovers. There is a risk that they might take something from you either physically or emotionally. There’s also the greater gift that they will return your affections in equal or greater amounts. Speaking from someone who has been taken advantage of more often than I can count for my generosity in the past, I know what it’s like to what to shut it all down and not let anyone in. Once those wall come up, it’s very hard to break them down again.

Asteya reminds us to be gentle with ourselves. If you find yourself being taken advantage of, face that person and let them know that you do not appreciate what they are doing and they may want to consider the harm they are doing to you by taking advantage of you. And if you are the one taking advantage of yourself by playing on your own moments of weakness, then give yourself a moment to breath and return to your breath. Listen to how you’re feeling and find out what you really need in that moment.

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Satya: truthfulness

Satya: truthfulness

Satya is the second of the five Yamas (restraints). I have already discussed the first one, Ahimsa, in a previous post, so please check that out from this link.

Satya is all about speaking your truth and being honest with yourself as well as with others. This might sound like it’s super easy to do but just think a moment on how many little white lies you tell yourself to help keep yourself happy. Here’s the thing, are you really happy living with those lies? I bet that you’re not. I know this because I haven’t been.

Satya presented itself to me this weekend when I came to full realization that I had been telling myself lies about my relationship with my partner. I had been telling myself that we could get over anything if we just worked at it. What I had been lying to myself about what that our relationship could be fixed but the true is, it could not be fixed. I had been telling myself that I could change but I really can’t, I am who I am and I was not what he wanted me to be. I also wanted something from him that he could not give to me and that was a lie that I told myself, that I could accept him for him but really, I could not or I would not have rejected parts of him in the ways that I did.

I do consider him to be one of my best friends and I don’t want to lose that. Of course, because we have had this more intimate relationship, it’s going to be hard to just going back to being “just friends”. I need time away from him, I don’t know how much time but enough to allow the pain of the loss of his presences in my life to fade.

I might be a little over sharing these days but I think that as a yoga teacher it’s important for me to help demonstrate keeping your heart open. I don’t think that I was keeping my heart open while I was trying to fight for our relationship, I think I was preparing myself for the end but that hasn’t worked either. It was just another lie I was telling myself.

I feel raw, open, and bare right now. Like I am standing in a room full of people without my cloths on and nothing to hide me from their gaze. I don’t want anyones pity in this matter, I know that I did all that I could and I know that this is best for both of us in the long run. Issues like the ones that we had cannot be fixed, you just have to leave the broken pieces to the wind and be open to the next experience. The very worst thing I can do to myself is close off my heart again. Although, I think some time alone to collect myself will be needed, it’s time for some self love again.

In keeping with Satya, I will endeavour to be more honest with myself and others, including my former partner.

Yoga: the spiritual path or the physical exercise?

Yoga: the spiritual path or the physical exercise?

Yoga is both a spiritual and physical practice but can you do one without the other. The answer is yes, you can practice the physical side of yoga without getting involved with the spiritual. With the rise of science and atheism, there is a rise in the amount of people who do not wish to practice the spiritual side of yoga and want to focus on the health benefits. I am someone who has their own spiritual path and yoga just happens to fit nicely into it but there are those who do not practice any spiritual beliefs what so ever and for them, a branch of yoga science has formed.

When I teach, I ask my students what they would be to be taught, the physical yoga or the spiritual. With the physical yoga, I also teach the meditational. There’s benefits to meditation that extend past just the esoteric side. I know that there’s a great amount of push back in the yoga community for going back to the roots of yoga and teaching the spiritual side of it. I think that it’s important to know the foundations of yoga but I don’t think that you have to know them to receive the benefits of the physical practice. I think in this age of science and discovery, more will be uncovered about the mental and physical benefits to yoga and it’s only natural that the spiritual side will be reserved for those who seek it out.

So whether or not you practice the spiritual and philosophical side of yoga, you will still receive all of the physical and mental benefits to yoga but just practicing the asana (poses). If you are not ready or do not wish to learn about the origins of yoga and it’s spirituality, then you don’t have to learn them. If you happen to take a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher training, you will end up learning about it because it’s a requirement of the training that you do but what you choose to do with that information after is totally up to you. You can either choose to take it further or you can just focus on teaching anasa to the best of your ability.

The reason why you practice is just as important as the practice itself. If you wish to grow as a yogi as a spiritual practitioner, then your yoga practice is going to be much more internal. If you want to focus more on the mental and physical health benefits of your practice, then your yoga practice is going to reflect that as an external practice as well as internal. Some would argue that the very practice of yoga asana is still spiritual even if you are not intending it to be. I have yet to see someone have an emotional or spiritual breakthrough outside of my yoga teacher training while in a class but that’s not to say that it can’t happen inadvertently, I am sure that it does.

For me, my yoga practice is mostly about the physical and mental. I do not practice the classical form of yoga spirituality but I do use its teaching as a tool to practice my own spiritual path which is pagan/animism. I have not had any of the spiritual “aha” moments in yoga as explained by my yoga teachers but I have felt the emotion and mental shifts while in practice. I have also experienced a dramatic shift in my ability to be more mindful about my actions. Am I on a path to “enlightenment”? No, I am just trying to live the most fulfilled life that I can while I am walking on this planet. I have no intention of seeking one with the universe while I am here. However, if it is your path to seek enlightenment, then I will do everything in my ability to make sure you have the best resources to help you follow that path, even if that means that I show you to a teach who can further your education beyond that of my own.

Yamas – Ahimsa

Yamas – Ahimsa

The eight fold path is like an ethical code of conduct that practitioners of yoga follow. It is made up of the yamas, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. I will go into detail about all of these in follow up blog posts but for now, I am focusing on the yamas.

There are five yamas to live by and they are as follows:

Ahimsa: non violence

Satya: truthfulness

Asteya: non stealing

Brahmacharya: continence

Aparigraha: non covetousness

They are also known as the five restraints of yoga. They are five principles to live the most authentic life you can. What I mean by authentic is both being honest with yourself and with others. Being honest with yourself is likely the hardest because we get used to telling ourselves stories about how we experience the world and what we think of ourselves.

If you are on the path to becoming a yoga teacher, you will need to learn these five yamas as they are part of your graduation requirements. Until I set foot in my first yoga teacher training class, I had no idea that these even existed. I had not cared to look into the philosophy and spirituality of yoga because I was only there to learn the asana and how to teach them. You might find this surprising but actually most people in Western culture would not know these until they set out to learn the deeper studies of yoga.

I don’t teach the yamas or other yoga philosophies unless asked by a student about them. I would argue to say that most people in our society are not interested in learning another set of rules to live by, it’s hard enough figuring out the first ones. If you are a moral person, you are already following most of the yamas as they apply to others but if you are one of these people who is too hard on themselves about everything, then the yamas might be good for you to practice.

Let’s start with the first, Ahimsa, meaning non violence. It sounds straightforward but it’s oddly complex. When Ahimsa speaks of non violence, it doesn’t just mean other people, it means non violence to yourself as well. That means, not just physical pain but emotional too. Ahimas is asking you to be gentle on yourself at all times. You are only human and in being so, you will make mistakes. Ahimsa means to give yourself, as well as other, love and kindness.

Ahimsa can extend beyond nonviolence to yourself and other humans, it can also extend to other creatures. I have known many vegans who follow Ahimsa so strictly that they do not wish to harm any creature. There are levels in which you can take this, going so far as to not wearing or using any animal products, such wearing wools or using honey. These are sort of the extremes to practicing Ahimsa.

When practicing yoga, it’s easy to be a little too hard on yourself. It’s challenging to keep up in a class when you are trying to learn the asana as well as practice your breathing. Ahimsa reminds us to take it easy on ourselves while we are learning. Afterall, that’s why we have savasana, so that we can give ourselves a moment to integrate all that we have learned in our practice. The next time you find yourself feeling that sense of self judgement coming in hard, take a moment and recall Ahimsa by taking a moment to breath and come back to the present moment. Witness those feelings and let your breath be your guide to letting them go. After you have done so, take a moment to write down your experience in your yoga journal.

I would love to hear more about your experiences in practising Ahimsa and what it means to you. Please feel free to leave a comment.

May the Fourth Be With You!

May the Fourth Be With You!

I was first introduced to Star Wars twenty years ago when the original films were released back into the theatre for the twentieth anniversary of the first film. I spent the summer of my 14th year watching the films over and over again and reading every Star Wars novel I could find. Thankfully, my brother had a good collection to get me started on.

I think what attracted me to the films was the characters. I loved Han Solo, Chewie, Luke, Leia, and of course the two droids, C3-P0 and R2-D2. I was never a big fan of Vader, I kind of thought he looked worse than he was. A few years later when Episode One: The Phantom Menace was released, I had my suspicions about Vader confirmed. Maybe it was that I listen to Obi Wan when he said that Anakin was a good man and it never really went away.

Star Wars is now forty years old and has such a legacy behind it now, it has become a cultural icon. When I was in my yoga teacher training, we talked about how the Jedi and Force is similar to the spiritual practice of yoga and the awakening of Kundalini energy. If you were to insert “Breath” instead of “Force” in much of Obi Wan and Yoga’s dialog in the films, you would see an amazing amount of similarities.

I was taking my teacher’s training when Episode Seven: The Force Awakens came out. There’s there moment where Rey is battling Kylo Ren in the forest and she is getting more and more angry and her use of the Force is getting weaker and weaker. Then all of a sudden she stops fighting herself and let’s go. In that moment the Force returns to her stronger.

Have you had a time when you were practising yoga and you were so busy forcing yourself into a posture, using all of your will power, that you forgot to breath and could not hold the pose? What happened when you let go of that will power and just let your breath lead you? You are suddenly able to hold that pose with little effort.

George Lucas himself once said that the Force is like yoga and that anyone can use it if they allow it to happen. They have to surrender to it in order to let it move through them. There’s a great line in the newest Star Wars film, Rogue One, where blind warrior Chirrut chants “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” While he’s not a Jedi, he certainly has surrendered to the Force and it does move through him.

“I am one with the Force, the Force is with me,” has now become a mantra for many Star Wars fans. In a sense, it’s like saying, “om namo bhagavate vasudevaya,” in yoga, which means, “Divine will be done.”

So, in conclusion for this happy Star Wars day of May the Fourth, I encourage you to go watch all eight Star Wars films and look for the yoga in them and see what you can find!