By Swami Ramananda
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 teaching of the month.
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 more often to those we encounter, 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.
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.