My personal definition of yoga has evolved over the years (especially the last 2). What started out as a physical pursuit came to mean so much more to me as time went on (I know, I know -- I've talked about this in this blog ad naseum). When people would ask me why I practiced yoga, I would only touch on the surface by saying that it was relaxing and that it increased and balanced my strength and flexibility.
Years later I find myself having difficulty giving the ole 60-second elevator speech about the benefits of yoga and the reasons I practice. Shallow definitions like the one I used to give just don't cut it anymore. Just this past weekend, I attended the second session of my Healing Yoga Foundation training. Like most students of yoga, we are examining the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali describes yoga as guiding the functions of the mind, or concentration. For anyone out there who's studied yoga, you know that there are many definitions of yoga yet Patanjali doesn't offer a laundry list (although he does discuss the "benefits" of practicing yoga). Yet, I find myself coming back to these definitions in particular time and time again. They work for my 60-second elevator speech...
And they remind us that yoga isn't simply a physical pursuit. The deeper work of yoga -- when practiced with breath, body and mind, not practiced as an exercise -- works with the quality of the mind. And we all know that when you change your mind your life changes. I can personally vouch for this, as my life has changed as a result of my years of regular practice. This is one of the joys of my private sessions with clients -- to see them transform their mind, bodies, and lives is one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive. Of course when I start working with someone and I take them through a sequence they're skeptical at first -- Why are these movements so slow? How am I supposed to coordinate my movements to my breath -- that's hard!?!?!? Shouldn't I be sweating more? How am I going to lose weight doing this? Can't we put music on? I simply smile and proceed with the session.
By the end of the session the client is visibly calmer and, in many cases, shocked that such simple movements could have such a powerful effect. Again I smile, remembering my first taste of true, body, breath, and mind yoga. And I remember how I felt when I discovered that what I thought was going to help my body only became a truly holistic practice. So the definition of focusing the mind/concentration takes on a much bigger meaning. Focusing the mind ultimately leads to freedom. Now when faced with a situation, there is a feeling and a response rather than a feeling and a reaction. A reaction implies that we're not driving the bus -- instead, our perceptions of reality, or our ego, or our emotions are taking over. Consider what happens when we feel and respond instead. We experience something but rather than let our perception of the experience dictate our behavior, we simply see the experience for what it is, allow our feelings about the experience, and move along our merry way.
So now when I think about my 60-second elevator speech on yoga, I think about the simple yoga equation...
Yoga integrates the mind, body, and the breath into a moving meditation. Over time the practice of yoga changes the quality of the mind. As the mind changes we experience self-knowledge and freedom.
Yoga=holistic practice+focused mind=a new way of being with yourself and in the world
In his new book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, Eckhart Tolle discusses the concept of "still and alert attention" in the very first chapter. Are you getting the connection here? When you're practicing yoga, you're focusing your attention in the present moment, on the relationship between the body, movement, and breath. Tolle's book isn't about yoga but the concepts are the same.
Oprah is turning the powerful message of Tolle's book into an opportunity to change by offering a free online course complete with free weekly webcasts with Tolle. The course lasts for 10 weeks and includes an online workbook (this is actually one of my favorite features of the course), a forum to connect with others, awakening exercises, and the opportunity to pose questions to either Oprah or Eckhart to be answered in a future webcast. Here's the class schedule:
Monday, March 3rd â€“ The Flowering of Human Consciousness
Monday, March 10th â€“ Ego: The Current State of Humanity
Monday, March 17th â€“ The Core of Ego
Monday, March 24th â€“ Role Playing: The Many Faces of the Ego
Monday, March 31st â€“ The Pain-Body
Monday, April 7th â€“ Breaking Free
Monday, April 14th â€“ Finding Who You Truly Are
Monday, April 21 â€“ The Discovery of Inner Space
Monday, April 28th â€“ Your Inner Purpose
Monday, May 5th â€“ A New Earth
I'm a huge supporter of the concept of people changing their lives -- whether it's through yoga or another means -- so I've already registered for this unique event. If you'd like to join in -- it's free -- simply click on the banner below.
Well, this is interesting. I was at the library the other day and the thought occurred to me I should get a book by Eckhart Tolle out. I have a bunch of friends who are into him but I've never read any of his stuff. But I could not find anything.
So as I was walking out I heard a librarian on the phone talking to a customer about reserving a book by Eckhart Tolle. Well, that was too coincidental so I decided to go look in the computer catalog and see if I couldn't find one of his books. I found "A New Earth" available and took it out. I just started reading it.
Now I see your post. I am lately not a huge fan of Oprah (her effusiveness with The Secret really turned me off) but I'm going to sign up for the free online course...because this is just too coincidental. :-)
I hear you about Oprah -- sometimes she gets on my nerves as well. I'm on board with this because the message is a good one. Since I believe that multi-task is a bad word, I'm all about being present in the moment. Tolle covers that in this book and he has some interesting things to say about ego. I'm always interested in making positive changes, so I figured I'd get on the Oprah bus for once. Hmmmmm...it seems like the universe is trying to tell you something. I say go for it! I'll "see" you in class tonight!
Hi Diane, I am almost done reading "A New Earth" and I watched the first videocast. I though the video was terrific. (I did not get a chance to see it live, though, but watching it afterwards was just fine.) Eckhart was really cool and humble and had great things to say. Oprah had some good things to say too, though a few times I felt she talked over the people calling in. But it was absolutely amazing to see people from all over the world communicating via webcam to a live webcast that went out to almost a million people. I'm looking forward to the rest of the course. So thanks for posting it here!
There are some really interesting things happening out there with the collective consciousness. People are opening up to awareness. Things like "global warming" that were considered bad words just ten years ago, are now accepted. Green products are popping up everywhere and are accessible, even in small towns. Health awareness too. Soda sales are dropping and companies are replacing them with vitamin water. Yoga is a mainstream activity. Books like "eat pray love" and "a new earth" aren't just reserved for the minority "hippie" few anymore. Everyone is looking for change and it seems more mainstream and accepted that change needs to happen. Even in our political atmosphere right now, the key word is change. Even there politicians are talking green. It's all very exciting to see the changes happening in the world right now! My students asking about how they can use yoga to deal with their specific imbalances, illnesses, injuries, rather than just a "workout". This all makes me feel so positive for my children, in the midst of a huge global catastrophe, people are waking up! Alot of these topics have been around since the sixties, or even earlier, but the main population, for the most part, are finally ready. It's an amazing time to be a part of it and all of us have something, some small way, we can be involved. Whether through teaching, or changing our own lives, being an example to friends and family, or posting great topics like this one! It's all about getting the coversation going, now that people are ready to hear and talk about it!