March 1, 2011
Anger is an emotion. We all get angry, and as healthy people, we should allow for anger. Anger is a visceral, energetic emotion that sometimes evokes physical involuntary action. It is at this critical juncture where anger can be harnessed and transformed into a healthier, more useful mode of action. The rewards are unlimited amounts of happiness and joy.
The best way to describe this is by attempting to envision a concept called joyful anger. The best ordinary example of this would be in physical sports in which you strategically drive your physical energy toward a goal of winning. In times of anger and related emotions, it’s easy to envision losing, or feeling hopeless because of the fear of losing in the face of anger.
It sounds so simple, it’s difficult, so you will have to meditate on these ideas if they are hard to grasp. I would even suggest bringing up anger that you are harboring below your mask emotions that you put on every day to function in society. It’s ok, we all have them, but we are at our happiest when we can manage them down to zero.
Think of your life as a programmed destination in a GPS device. The moment your life begins, it’s like pressing “Go!” and the destination on the GPS is your death. You are by nature programmed to fulfill your life destiny as long as you follow your true nature and don’t take detours from it. You can think of anger and the situations that bring up anger as consequences of taking a detour from the shortest, truest path. The GPS will automatically recalculate a new route to your destination, but it is at least one step removed from the easiest, original route.
What are the tell-tale signs that you’re doing it wrong? Anger can lead to other emotions when not transformed into joy. Simply, if your behavior doesn’t outwardly exhibit pure radiant joy and boundless energy, then you’re doing it wrong. Anger will sap your energy before you direct that energy into determined joy. Then it can sap even more energy once you allow it to manifest itself as hopeless depression brought on by self-doubt and a pessimistic view of the presence of anger.
On the contrary, anger is the driving force behind innovation, progressive action, and previously unrealized creativity. Harnessing an emotion that for some is the source of power behind lifting objects and throwing them, punching things, or yelling at the top of one’s voice, is one of the secrets to life few understand. Use this resource and you can open new, unseen modes of action that define who you are.
December 15, 2010
Before I explain why you don’t have to be a vegetarian to practice Yoga, let’s lay a foundation of where this idea comes from. Patanjali was an ancient Hindu sage who compiled the science of Yoga in a systematic manner. So, Yoga has to do with Hinduism when considering its origin. When studying the many aspects of Yoga, because of this origin, regardless of who you are and what your origins are, the information will be getting to you throughout this lens of Vedic Hindu tradition. As a first step in this Vedic Hindu tradition of disciplining the body, and thence, the mind, the Asanas are one way through which we get initiated into Hinduism, like it or not. But if you actually pay attention to the philosophy of Yoga and comprehend the teachings, it stops there as far as the practitioner either becoming Hindu or even merely imitating Hinduism. Yoga, although born of Hinduism, goes far beyond its origins and cannot be described rightfully and respectfully if it stays in the limited context of Hinduism.
Yoga is not an all-or-nothing kind of commitment. You aren’t expected to retreat into a cave wearing monk garb, cutting yourself off from society once you begin Yoga practice. This is also why although vegetarianism is suggested in Yoga teachings, it is also taught that Yoga is not about restricting yourself from what life has to offer and therefore vegetarianism is not required. To think it is required is to misunderstand the yogic path.
So it isn’t good or bad to be a vegetarian, but rather what you feel is right for you. What is bad is only what kind of vegetarian or non-vegetarian you are. Whether or not you eat meat is less of an issue than the quality of what you are putting in your body. Definitely don’t confuse vegetarianism as something that is right or wrong for animals who give their lives for us to consume their carcasses. This is a life-limiting approach and Yoga is about making life as enriching as possible, not a list of commandments that tell you what not do or what is allowed. Let’s save that for Christianity.
February 5, 2010
Let’s face it. Yoga isn’t for everybody. The reasons why are different for each person. A friend of mine states his reason simply by saying, “I don’t do yoga”. In a recent group conversation, this same friend was trying to convince everyone else in the group to do other things that in his mind are confidence-building, motivating, spiritual experiences. People began to reply after some consideration that they didn’t think what he was proposing was “their thing”. Everyone has their thing. Some people jump out of airplanes, drag race, hang-glide, fire walk, scuba dive, climb treacherous mountains. On some level, my friend was equating these kinds of things with yoga. Every time he said he doesn’t “do yoga”, with the conviction of choice, the more I saw he didn’t know what yoga is and doesn’t know what it is that he will not bring himself to do. He may even be surprised to find out he’s been doing yoga all along. I understand what it is he doesn’t do: he doesn’t carry a mat, he doesn’t buy yoga clothes, he doesn’t see himself fitting in with the look of yoga as it has been represented in the United States. Yoga isn’t for everybody. But if some don’t even know what it is, how can they be sure?
January 31, 2010
Coming from the mindset of rigorous workouts building lean, hard muscle slowly over time, certain aspects of yoga poses are always a breath of fresh air for me. When I’m in the gym, motivational music can be very helpful to get through my workout goals.
When I’m learning asanas that are challenging, motivational music can have an equally beneficial effect. For example, one of my favorite poses is headstand. When doing headstand, ten seconds can be very strenuous if you concentrate on engaging multiple muscle groups while concentrating on the lift at the shoulders. I found that playing some of my favorite rock music at the time that only had 2-3 minute songs was a good way to get both motivated and encouraged by the attitude of the songs. I didn’t worry about how long I’ve been in the headstand because all I had to ask myself was whether or not a whole song went by to gauge time. Soon enough I felt confident in a good headstand posture without strain or uneasiness, and I didn’t need the music anymore, enjoying the silence within.
January 31, 2010
Sounds are around us always. You can close your eyes and block vision from affecting your mind as an outside stimulus, but how do you close your ears? When performing asanas or dhyana, choices can be made to include sounds or not. Even with the choice not to include sound, there will be sounds in our environment we have no control over. This contrast can be applied to your choice of sound to be considered. For example, I’ve made simple stereo recordings of waves crashing on a shore at night for the purpose of listening back when I was nowhere near a beautiful beach. This kind of sound is more universal than something like the sound of a piano or trumpet, and deep in our minds we have a closer connection with the sounds of the earth that have been there since before a piano or a trumpet was invented. The waves are soothing to my mind because I have learned through my experience with the beach to feel that way. Therefore, it is a good choice for me to include this facsimile of an outside stimulus to still my mind during meditation.
Music, in terms of what we buy to feel a certain way, doesn’t have to be the only kind of sound to consider or avoid when meditating or creating a mood. If your asanas are in need of outside motivation to push you through them, music that physically motivates will make it a positive experience for you. Or the sounds of birdsongs may have that affect on you. Everyone’s ear-brain is different because it is based on individual unique life experiences. Think about what soothes and motivates you in terms of available sound and ask yourself if you’re willing to incorporate that into your practice. You may surprise yourself.
January 27, 2010
What sounds are appropriate for you while doing yoga? If you are in a class setting, the teacher may set the tone with no sound, meaning the instructor will not introduce sounds willingly, or perhaps sound is an integral part of the class, as in kirtan. Music is a very personal thing. Yoga is a very personal thing. I’m open to listening to any form of music, but maybe not so comfortable with someone else choosing what I listen to while doing yoga. Enter Metal Yoga.
My music of choice is Metal. And the philosophy behind Metal’s genre applies comfortably to my yoga practice. Those of us who listen to Metal understand that behind the aggressive sounds comprised of forceful drums, thick staccato guitars, and earth-shattering bass rumble, resides a place of inner peace and transformation of negativity into realizations of victory. Through Metal we turn anger into motivation to realize positive goals, and live in moments of self-empowerment through being surrounded by these sounds and feeling their energy.
Maybe simple droning sounds or relaxing tones, either natural or synthesized, are all you want and need for your yoga. Maybe yoga is just a thing you do for a set time with a certain frequency during the week, then you don’t think about it until you do it again. Or, maybe when you’re done and roll up your mat you are still doing yoga, walking, talking, working, going to bed doing yoga, dreaming yoga. It’s your choice. No answer is the wrong answer, no way is the wrong way. Your way is the right way.