Tag Archives: living sutras

Opportunity For Honesty- Politics, Satya, and Yoga (Follow-up to Satya Post 1)

This week’s post on Satya (seen here) was really hard to write. I actually had to take a nap in the middle of writing it. Not because I was tired- but because my body put up a defense mechanism: sleepiness in the face of stress!

The fact is that I’m experiencing a problem with honesty in my life. Not that I’m a big horrible liar. But when I’ve identified a truth in my life, I feel that I need to share that, wear that, on the outside of my skin as much as I do on the inside. And when I don’t, I’m uncomfortable.

There’s something big going on that made me feel really hypocritical when writing the Satya post. It’s so big in fact, that you can’t help but hear about it, see it, be inundated with it everywhere you go.

I’m talking about the 2012 Presidential Election.

Have you seen this picture on Facebook?

Do I have to hide from your opinion in order to be your friend?

This is the post that really called me out. Because I completely agree with the sentiment- and in my case, it’s cowardice.

Here’s the truth: I have a strong (Democratic) political opinion. I very much do NOT want a President Romney in the House. I have given money to the Democratic party this year and I’d give more if I could.

But I’m a chicken, because you haven’t heard me say anything about it. There are two reasons, and neither of them are good ones.

The first is that I dislike conflict, and because (I say to myself) I do not feel that I am well-enough educated in the issues and platforms of the parties to intelligently argue my side. This is nonsense.  I am certainly as educated as many of the other folks out there spewing facts. I’ve just wanted to avoid the conversation- it’s much easier to be cozy and comfortable in my quiet little opinion.

The second issue is that I’ve been afraid of alienating people that I love and care for (and who, shockingly, don’t agree with my political views! What an educational month it’s been in that regard). Students. Fellow teachers. Friends. Politically (I’ve rationalized to myself), it’s best that I just remain quiet on the topic unless directly asked. In truth, again, I just don’t want to put us in that uncomfortable position.

So why get my yoga panties in a twist over the whole situation? Why does the concept of truth cause me to hide under the covers? Well, If I’m truly living yoga-  which I aspire to do- then don’t I have a responsibility to shine not only my truth from the inside out, but to actively work to create (what I believe is a) better society for all of us?

I’m fortunate enough to be a member of a society that allows us to choose how the country is run. My vote is as important as any of the other choices I make- and in fact, my vote will determine whether or not I am ABLE to make any of these choices in the next four years.

So yeah, there’s been a hypocrisy to my silence up to this point- maybe I wouldn’t have been saying much of anything, but my reasons for saying nothing have not been aligned with my morals.

Please note that I am not condemning anyone else for keeping their silence, on this or any other topic. We all find ourselves at different places on our journey and the step that is right for me today may not be right for you. This post is simply about my experience.

Do yoga teachers have a responsibility to act politically? Or would you rather not know? If you like, leave a comment below- please keep it respectful- temper your Satya with Ahimsa, please!

Dynamic Peacefulness: Ahimsa

One of the fun bonuses of class planning is that by theming my classes, I have the opportunity to expand my own knowledge and awareness. I’m really excited about my latest cycle of themes- the Yamas, or “Restraints” of Yoga.

The Yamas, or Moral Restraints, comprise the first of the eight-limbed path of yoga (see more about the path here). This week, we’re starting with ahimsa, the first of the restraints. Ahimsa is “non-violence.”

Of course this is open to interpretation. Ahimsa might mean not murdering people, so most of us are okay on that count. But does it mean non-violence to all sentient beings? In that case, perhaps you’ve decided to avoid meat, or products that cause harm to animals. For you, the non-violence may take the form of avoiding gossip, or purchasing fair-trade coffee. You may let ahimsa decide where you spend your money, cast your vote, or invest your 401k.

How big can your ahimsa be? Where do you draw the line? I think it can almost never be big enough. It’s not just non-violence: it is the opposite of violence. It is kindness, generosity, compassion, open-hearted love. Here, read this definition:

“Ahimsa is a dynamic peacefulness that is prepared to meet all situations with a loving openness. It is the state of living free from fear.” -Alistair Shearer

Yes! Ahimsa goes beyond the neutrality of “non-violence” to suggest that we actively live in a way that embodies peace, love, and kindness. It reaches out and embraces others. It is living love.

Sounds pretty good, right? So why aren’t we doing it?

If you’re like me, maybe that’s a little scary. You’ve cultivated a careful shell to protect yourself from the outside world. You can remember 1,000 times that you were hurt by others, or by extending a kindness, and you may even feel that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

This is where the first limb of yoga (yamas) works so beautifully with the third limb of yoga- the asana practice, or the work that we do on the mat. There is a powerful, invisible connection between your physical body and the soul. Every time you learned a negative lesson, the body stored it away, an emotional pain stored in the physical body.

Through the postures, whether a slow and dreamy yin practice, or a hot and sweaty vinyasa flow, the body begins to open. It unlearns life’s sad lessons. The inner, vulnerable, bright and beautiful self is revealed. Now you can build again- learning a new openness in the shoulders, so your heart can shine brightly. You can lift the corners of your lips, and laugh a little more easily. You can move more lightly and easily in the hips and the back as you lose some of the stored tension there.

And as the body opens, the heart opens too.

You’ll find yourself more willing to talk to and share with others- more understanding of their pains- more tolerant of their needs. You’ll find that ahimsa becomes the way you want to live. The way you have to live.

Am I living love? Do I exhibit a dynamic peacefulness?* Not so much!  In fact, I often find myself in the judge’s seat, criticizing my own behavior or a perceived lack of ahimsa. This is where it’s time to turn ahimsa inward and lay off the judgement. Kindness and compassion aren’t just for others, but must be practiced internally as well.

What does ahimsa mean to you? How do you practice ahimsa?

*Typing this thought made me LOL actually 🙂