The second day of the conference we were all blessed with the arrival of Sivakami Sumar, a dynamic and beloved teacher who started the Jai Vida Yoga center about 30 years ago. We began with a Yoga class and all three classrooms were filled.
Next, I offered a workshop on how the branches of Yoga each work in specific ways to heal and strengthen the different levels of our being. We discussed the challenges of living in our modern consumer oriented culture, and how a comprehensive practice is needed to break the barriers formed by our habitual ways of thinking and behaving.
Hatha Yoga heals and strengthens the physical level, allowing prana to flow more fully, and thus giving access to working with our the subtle mental levels. It is in bringing an acute and refined awareness to our thoughts that we begin to unravel the source of our suffering.
We discussed the importance of practicing Hatha Yoga grounded in the Raja Yoga and its principles of Yama and Niyama. For example, Ahimsa means we are mindful to cause no injury, Satya guides us to be honest with ourselves, Santosha implies we are able to be content even as we aspire to improve, and Tapasya requires us to discpline ourselves and focus the mind in the present.
I then shared with the group how all my efforts at controlling my mind eventually brought me literally to my knees, and the practices of Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of surrender. We must all at some point acknowledge the limitations of the mind, and open ourselves to be guided by a higher power, an unlimited source of wisdom that each of us can approach in whatever way we understand it.
All of these practices contribute to our ability to discriminate between the voice of our ego mind and that of our spiritual Self, the practice of Jnana Yoga. Only by doing this can we make conscious choices about how to respond to life’s challenges — choices that consider the well being of everyone.
Sivakami then offered a workshop and spoke at length about the importance of a lineage that sustains the original intention of Yoga and how it should be practiced. I then joined her for a kirtan and final session of question and answers. It felt to me that by the end of the conference, our doubts had been cleared, our energies uplifted to a new height, and our hearts opened wider by the group sincerity and love. We were all reluctant to go home and no doubt the benefits of the conference will resonate in our lives for many days to come.