Working Out The Yamas of Vinyasa

Do not think of my yogic exercise, or workout yoga, as a workout. As long as you mindfully complete each set of movements while strongly engaging your muscles, you will be getting a workout. Please, please do not over-exert yourself such that you are unable to complete the set of (vinyāsa) movements. Muscles work in concert with each other, and counter opposing movements are just as important in developing healthy muscle.

Vinyāsa is a workout. However, do not get the funny notion that you must do more to get a better gym workout. Most importantly, don’t think of it as a competition. Beauty pageants often bring out the ugliness in some people. Even worse is competing with yourself. You should never feel that you are less than ideal, or that you must somehow be improved. You should not be made to buy a product because you associate a feeling or value to that product, which somehow raises the esteem of yourself.

You know better than to become part of an economic system that is driven by greed, wealth and lust. According to the Yoga Sutra-s, the canonical work that describes the philosophy of the mind, you must first cultivate the virtue of non-greediness, non-hoarding, or aparigṛha, otherwise your yoga will exhaust, and may even kill, you. Excessive yoga can have tragic consequences brought on by ego-bound rigidity or saṃskāra. Yoga is not a competition. Nor is it about ownership.

My style of yoga is not about following me, or anyone else other than your self. For Yoga to be appropriate for, and relevant to, you — the individual, you must separate it from its Hindu heritage and names — and, if necessary, radically shift its paradigms — to fit you. The Sanskrit term, anubhāvana, which literally means “follow intention”, poignantly captures this concept of “you-ness”, “I-ness”, or ahamkara. Following intention has the same depth of meaning as anusāram (follow the essence of your self). The Yoga Sutra-s say that you must be open to see and accept your truth (or satya). Yoga is only possible within the frame of reference that is your own. Different people have different body types, so everybody’s style of practice should be different. Often people feel challenged, because they feel that their bodies, or vessels, are “too thin”, or “too fat”, or “too big”, or “too short”. Generally, they see their ideal selves as something that they are not, which, ostensibly, makes them sell their own selves short. To realize the best that you can be, you must not sell your self short. You must embrace your self.

Ahiṃsā. If you treat your body badly, it will not serve you well. If you learn to nurture your body properly, you will grow and improve. The sanskrit term “ahiṃsā” is not about vegans or animals, although you could interpret it in those terms for ethical or spiritual reasons.

Yoga means different things to different people. For many people today, modern Yoga is considered an exercise modality, and not a spiritual endeavour. For the householder, spiritual liberation or salvation of the soul (jīvanmukti) is no prize — at least, not in this lifetime. Nevertheless, we must be mindful in the exercise of restraint, now that the Pandora’s Box for health and wellness has become a mainstream product or commodity in human society. If we consume the product for reasons of vanity or esteem, then we may still fall victim to our own irrational desires rather than comply with actual personal needs. Through brāhmačārya (celibacy or self-restraint) heed the innate desires so that they do not compel us against our better judgement. Sex sells, and nothing is more prevalent, deviant, and integrated in modern society, commercial advertising, and mass media, since psychoanalytic theory found its practical application in public relations, propaganda, and politics. Unless we study and understand our basic human nature to be compelled by such imagery, we will never become liberated selves, but rather, we remain ticking time bombs of a social experiment bound by our saṃskāra.

My commentary is inspired by The Century of the Self, a British TV documentary, which aired in 2002.

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