The practice of Yoga invites us to evaluate those things in our lives that are necessary and to discard the things that aren’t necessary. In a pose, this means looking for areas that are holding onto unnecessary tension, or releasing what doesn’t need to be working at that moment, letting go of the “monkey mind” and focusing on where we are right now. Where we first learn this in the practice of asana Yoga, we can then take this into our daily lives as well.
In this time of economic hardship, it becomes necessary to delve deeper into our programming, to examine what is truly necessary and what is not. For each of us, this process will differ. But generally, what is necessary? Our physical needs are necessary; as are our homes/shelter, food, and the employment that provides these things. How they are provided must also be examined (eating at home vs. eating out.)There are many options for cutting down on costs. One way my family has cut down on costs has been to become more mindful of where our money goes. For instance, shopping the sale ads for grocery stores before we go shopping; evaluating our meal planning and letting go of those things that aren’t serving us right now. The practice of mindfulness is just that; bringing more awareness to our daily actions and thought processes.
Because finances, like bodies, are so individualized, there is no one solution. Instead, invite yourself to become mindful about your spending habits. Ask yourself what is necessary, and what is not. Identify what is a “want” and what is a “need.” Also consider ways that you might create an attitude of abundance. Remind yourself that when your basic needs are met, you have abundance. In our consumer-driven society, we are constantly looking outward to find fulfillment, looking for the newest shiny thing that might make us feel complete. Yoga tells us we are already complete!
This month, dedicate some time to evaluating your spending and bringing more mindfulness to every purchase you make. Ask yourself, “is this a want or a need?”
Cultivate a feeling of abundance by reminding yourself of the needs you have that are already being met and remembering that you are already whole and complete.
The Inner Work of Yoga
The practice of Yoga, through poses, gives us the opportunity to examine the ways in which we treat and live in our bodies. Once we’ve become aware of the condition of our bodies, we are able to examine the ways in which we lead our lives and our relationships. This inner work can lead to very rewarding, and difficult, realizations about who and what we are.
For instance, it’s very easy for us to accept positive attitudes and feedback about ourselves. Someone tells us we are intelligent or attractive, and of course we feel good and readily accept that information. It’s less easy, however, to admit those less-than-admirable qualities about ourselves. BKS Iyengar in his book, Light on Life, states that we readily admit when we have done something good, such as donate money to a charity, but are less likely to admit that we might stab someone in the back to get a promotion, especially if no one had to know about it. The truth of the negative action, in Iyengar’s words, feels closer to the soul.
When we take a closer look at who we are in this earthly life, and what our motivations are, we get a clearer picture of what we need to work on to be free of affliction and conditioning. This picture can be quite a scary and uncomfortable thing to look at. Often, we have clues that are reaffirmed in our lives, either through our conscience, or through the input of others. But again, when looking at those things that make us uncomfortable, we are more likely to block it out, or lash out. It is, after all, easy to point the finger outward at others, checking off a list of your perceptions on their failures and problems. It takes more fortitude to point the finger back at ourselves and begin to be aware of our own mentalities.
The five afflictions listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lie in the ignorance of our true nature. They are ignorance, asmita (or identifying with the finite ego), attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. We all sense that we are eternal, but according to Yoga, the role that you play in this life will not carry over to the next.
In asana, we begin by simply being aware, for instance, of what our big toe is doing in a pose. A teacher helps guide us, and as we become more proficient, we gain deeper understanding and awareness. The first step toward change is awareness. We then can take this step out into the world and notice how we behave in every day life, the contents of the mind, the nature of our thoughts and of our relationships. It has been said, to change the world, we must first change ourselves. It is the only change we are truly capable of making. And only then can we realize that our afflictions can be overcome and true peace can arise from the knowledge of our true state of being. That we are more than these lives, these petty thoughts, our defenses, our offenses, our furniture, our paychecks, our problems, our prides. We are ever so much more, if we can make the choice to look. When we stop pointing our mirrors outward to the world at large, so full of blame, judgment, and inadequacies, and instead point the mirror inward, we wipe it clean from affliction and conditioning, cleanse our minds and our actions, the mirror becomes a lens that allows our true nature to shine forth. We take the focus away from how others look or act and instead draw our attention inward. This is the true work of yoga. It begins in asana, and leads us to the inner depths of our being.
About the Author
Candice Garrett’s classes have evolved from her studies in Iyengar Yoga and Vinyasa flow. She feels blessed to study under many inspiring teachers including Iyengar Yoga with Kofi Busia, the pelvic floor and exercises with Leslie Howard and prenatal Yoga with Robin Sale. She has a deep interest in the workings of the body; its anatomy and alignment and especially loves to work with people who have dealt with adversity, injury, pregnancy or limitation, for it is there that the magic of the practice happens. Candice is registered with Yoga Alliance and holds certificates in Hatha Yoga and Whole Birth Prenatal Yoga and Support. Email: info[at]candicegarrettyoga.com