While the practice of Yoga has spread all over the world, it is generally understood to be movements done on a mat, which greatly limits how it is practiced. A more complete understanding of Yoga is to see it as a way of life rather than just a set of movements. Wanting to emphasize this in our lives, we decided to practice bringing Yoga into our daily actions for the month of February.
The intention behind all the teachings and practices of Yoga is to fully realize our essential nature – the Spiritual Self that is the unchanging presence behind the ever-changing body/mind. This presence is experienced as a source of innate contentment and intimate connection with all of life, that gives rise to a natural compassion towards other beings.
The idea of enlightenment or God realization may seem a vague and distant goal, but we can all cultivate the above-mentioned qualities and have our own mini-experiences of enlightened living. We can practice being content in the present moment, remembering with gratitude all the ways we are blessed. We can contemplate how interconnected we are with nature, how every breath is an exchange with the world around us and think about how each action and every focused thought is a contribution to the collective consciousness.
If I seriously consider this, I become much more conscious of the repercussions of my actions and the intentions behind them. We can ask ourselves, “Am I thinking about the well-being of everyone, or just acting on my own desires?”
Another way of bringing Yoga to life is to do whatever we do with our whole being – an easeful body, an open heart and a calm, focused mind. A daily Hatha Yoga and meditation practice will support this effort to perform tasks in a meditative way, mindful of the effects on others and on ourselves.
I like to practice a “compassion walk” during which I try to visualize that everyone I see is doing the best they can, learning in their own time, and thus equally deserving of my respect and care. Cultivating this intention in our interactions with others is another potent step towards enlightened living.
We have many opportunities every day to make a choice to be loving, to listen and understand others, to offer feedback with genuine care, to give without expecting something in return. If we open our hearts to those we encounter more often, we begin to live as a presence of peace, we begin to allow a much greater intelligence to guide us and we may also sense how we are functioning in harmony with a much greater plan.
Serving each other and our communities in any way we are called to is a natural expression of gratitude and arises from the recognition of our interdependence with all of life. Actions performed with genuine care for others are healing for our hearts, and we find joy in giving rather than looking for a reward or outcome. This is how we really bring our Yoga practice to life.
When we set an intention, we identify an end goal. This simple practice orients us on the right path. We can take this abstract concept a bit further by thinking about the actions needed to reach that end goal. The trick here is to come up with manageable steps that induce the right circumstances to deliver us to our goal. Recite a daily affirmation stating the action you will take or the refrain that you will abide by. The most effective way to do so is by making the promise for only one day, not a week, not a month, not a year. Simplistic yet magically effective. When you wake up, recite your well-crafted affirmation, “Only for today, I will … [insert the action you want to do or avoid here],” and repeat it three times with intent, reflection, and awareness.
If your affirmation doesn’t work for you that day; then simply go back to it the next day. However, if day after day the affirmation does not bring about the anticipated result, then you should reexamine your affirmation. For example, come up with yet smaller or simpler steps to take. If you are still unsuccessful, then you should reflect on the intention itself. Once you find your rhythm, remember to strike that balance between intention, acceptance, and contentment. As for me, my New Year resolution is to make a daily resolution!
Happy 2018 to you and yours.