Friday, April 6, 2018

© Sandra Carden, ERYT 500                 
Teaching the Foundations of Yoga
  As a practicing yogini for almost 50 years, I continue to take classes from others. Most recently I’ve attended some of the worst classes I’ve ever encountered.  
            Many “yoga” classes are not yoga– they are exercise (see my last article posted 3/8/18 @ www.unionyoga.com). As yoga instruction becomes more focused on asana, we are losing the essence of what separates yoga from exercise, and the supreme promise of this path. For remember, dear ones, the purpose of yoga is enlightenment.
            The popular tendency to race ahead willy-nilly, grasping for the pay-off of a great physical workout before we’ve invested in the gold coins of foundation will bring you nothing that lasts. There is no lasting benefit in a yoga workout. If you actually want to receive the true promise of yoga, build your foundation first. If you just want the side effect, the vajra-deha, or diamond body, carry on. Perhaps it won’t hurt you.
           Freedom. Liberation. Bliss. No suffering– no pain. That’s It. That is the promise of yoga. Building toward bliss doesn’t come from barging in with the body. In fact, asana alone, without foundational practice can be harmful both physically psychologically.   
            Asana, or posture, is not the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga regarded and revered for millenea. Before asana can be practiced, we must truly know, understand and practice the primary tenants of yoga. These are remembered as non-harming, truthfulness, open-handedness, moderation, non-possession, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender to a greater power.
            You and I may never master this framework, but we must align ourselves in accord with yogic principals before we can reap the full harvest of yoga, or else. Or else we get nothing that lasts, nothing real. The promise of yoga is ease in living. What could be more worthy of our attention?
            The longer this trend toward slicing up the yogic pie and greedily taking only the tasty piece of asana is perpetuated, the more we starve our souls and the farther we get from the four promises (purusartha)of yoga.           
            These four purusartha are both the goal and the gift, the full meal and the dessert. The first is dharma/to fulfill your destiny. The second is artha/to be truly rich. The third is kama/to take great pleasure. The fourth is moksha/to be free of suffering, liberated, self-realized and blissed.
            Dharma plays out most prominently in the early years of life. You find what you are good at and you discover what you love. You get your education and prepare to do your life’s work.
            Artha is wealth. In young adulthood you establish your career or work in life, be it small and close to home or big and global- no difference. When you are doing your right work, the right amount of money will come. You buy your house and your toys and raise your family. Yoga says this wealth in life is your goal and your birthright.
            Kama is pleasure. Toward the middle years of your life, you need less, and the joy grows. Things are simpler and more spacious. You have the pleasure of enjoying all you have worked for. Your investment in family and finances pays off.
            Moksha is freedom and bliss. Toward the last quarter of your life, attention turns toward the spiritual in preparation for making the transition out of the body with ease. Relationships to others, Self and Source are fulfilling. The later years in life are sweet. They are the golden years of getting ready to go.
            Whether you are just starting a yoga engagement with yourself, or have been on the yogic path for many moons, reconsider what you really want in this lifetime. Slow down and ponder why the Eight Limbs of non-harming, truthfulness, open-handedness, moderation, non-possession, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender are called for first. Do you want to be toned and attractive, or do you want to be free? You can be both.
            Otherwise, it’s just an ego game.