In traditional Ashtanga Yoga, we always start our practice with an opening chant and close the practice with a closing chant. If you would like to know what these chants look like written in Sanskrit, how to pronounce them, and what the translations are, click to download our pdf file with both written chants. To get the full chanting experience join one of our Ashtanga Yoga classes.
Aloha, in this blog we will have another Dharma Talk. There are two subjects we will be talking about. First we’ll take a look at one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Sutra 1.33 that teaches us how to deal with others. Then we will talk about one of the chakras, Manipura Chakra, the Solar Plexus Chakra.
For the Sutra part of this talk I chose Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33, which talks about keeping an elevated and calm state of mind. In this sutra Patanjali gives us 4 ways to be around people, or to deal with people. We are taught to be happy for people who are happy, even if we disagree with their source of happiness. When we see someone who is sad, we approach them with compassion. When we look upon someone and perceive them to be lucky, we will meet them not with jealousy, but with delight. And last but not least, the wicked we will disregard or be indifferent to. All of these states of being can be challenging and might not always come to us as easily as we’d like them to. Yet, when we live by these four ways of dealing with people, we ourselves stay in an elevated place of happiness and peace of mind.
When I was researching this particular sutra I came across a very interesting little story from the Pañca Tantra, that explained that one day, a very rainy day, a monkey and a little bird, a sparrow, were sitting on different branches of the same tree. The monkey was drenched while the sparrow had built itself a beautiful little nest. It had even built itself different rooms within its very nest, making it super warm and cosy and a wonderful place to be. Once the sparrow noticed the monkey it said ‘my friend, I am very tiny, I don’t even have hands, but I did manage to build this beautiful house for myself to keep me warm, because I knew a cold and rainy day like this one would come around’. Upon hearing this, the monkey was offended. It turned to the sparrow and said ‘you devil, how dare you advise me?’ In his anger he tore the sparrow’s nest to pieces. Now they were both out in the cold and rain.
When we try to advise the wicked, they can take it as an insult. They will think you are teasing them and showing off, even if that is not your intention and you just want to help. By giving the wicked advice we will only lose our own peace of mind. So that is what Patanjali is teaching us here as well. By not engaging with the wicked, by being indifferent to them, we can keep our peace.
Sometimes approaching people in this matter takes courage and confidence, and even self respect. That takes us to our next part of this Dharma Talk, the chakras.
Chakras are energy centers within the body. Chakra means wheel. In this dharma talk we’ll take a closer look at manipura chakra, the solar plexus chakra. It is located right beneath the sternum and connects to the fire element. The color of this chakra is yellow.
It is the center of our personal identity and the seat of the ego. It is the chakra from which our sense of dignity and respect originates. Self confidence grows from this very chakra, as well as inner knowledge and our instincts about people and things. The qualities of truth and freedom that originate from the solar plexus chakra aren’t influenced by pain, loss or trauma. Even though life comes with ups and downs and we’re faced with difficulties, once we connect to our true self, to our third chakra, we heal. We gain a sense of inner strength that allows us to stand on our own two feet.
A beautiful gemstone you can use that is connected to this chakra is the ‘citrine’ stone. It is a yellow quartz that has the healing qualities of the sun. It is used to stabilize self love.
The myth we will be discussing today is about Padmasana, lotus pose. This pose helps us to be grounded and connected to the earth, which is great for seated meditation.
The myth of this asana is that Vishnu, who is said to be the protector of the Universe, was comfortably seated on his couch, the serpent Ananta, with thousand heads. From Vishnu’s navel a lotus flower sprouted, with four faces looking north, east, south and west. These were the faces of Brahma, the deity of creation. The lotus represents perfection and purity. Very often this can be a difficult asana to come into, when the hips are still very tight. Over time, with practice we can allow them to soften. This reminds us of the actual lotus flower that blooms in India, even from the dirtiest waters and swamps, seeking its way up to the sun and the light. We too can blossom even if it might seem difficult at the start.
Aloha, in this blog entry I would like to introduce a new series to you: dharma talks. During these dharma talks, we go through different parts of yoga. The history, philosophy, myths, chakras, sutras, you name it. I want to introduce this, because these days often times yoga is perceived to be just yoga asana, the physical practice of yoga poses. Yet yoga is so much more! It has such a rich history that I would like to explore with you. Yoga asana is only one of eight limbs or branches of yoga. So that leads us to today’s topic of this dharma talk. I will be talking about the mind and the ego.
We will discuss this with the help of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra in chapter one, sutra number two, which says: “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah”
Yogas is yoga
Citta is ‘mind-stuff’, the workings of the mind.
Vrtti means fluctuations (of mind and breath)
Nirodhah means to stop
This Sutra is often translated as ‘Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind’, or as my teacher taught me: Yoga occurs when we stop identifying with our thoughts.
All too often, as students of yoga, we can hear ourselves saying we can’t do something, when faced with a difficult asana. The pose might be too difficult, or at least that is what the mind tells us, what our ego tells us. In fact, that is actually where the true ‘yoga’ lies for us. It is where we learn the most. We can research this by asking ourselves if this is actually true. We then often learn that it isn’t, those thoughts are actually false beliefs that we tell ourselves.
We think we need to be able to do difficult asanas (or anything in life for that matter) within a few days. We expect it to just happen, without really putting in any effort. We live in a society that is all about the ‘fast’ way to do something. Losing weight in 7 days, getting abs in 10 days, and so on. This fast route simply isn’t sustainable. There are no shortcuts in learning our lessons, in becoming truly free. Essentially, that is what we are looking for in our practice, this sense of freedom, actual ‘nirodhah’, our very best state of mind/control over the mind.
Yoga isn’t about being able to do an asana ‘perfectly’. What does that mean anyways? On social media we are bombarded with images of people doing headstand, or placing their leg behind the head, and we are drawn to this. However, this doesn’t mean these people are better at yoga. They might just be very flexible or bendy. Their connection to the practice might be somewhere else, or they might have been working on attaining the pose for years. The true power of yoga, in my opinion, lies within those very moments and postures that don’t come easily to us. The ones we have to fight for, work at day in, day out. The ones where we are forced to take a good look at ourselves, and with loving kindness approach the practice, with compassion. Some poses take weeks, months, or even years to learn, and that’s ok. The journey is what matters here, it is where your lessons are.
When we are faced with the ego, when the mind wants us to believe we can’t do something, we need to understand that these are false truths. There is a very beautiful lesson to be learned here. If we connect to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2, which says ‘Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah’, we can learn exactly this.
The fluctuations of the mind that we are experiencing are there to teach us very valuable lessons. So, with practice, the fluctuations of the mind (the thinking) stop and then we have yoga.
Everything we just talked about is further explained in the fourth and last chapter of the Yoga Sutra. Here we learn that yoga is actually a combination of two things:
Next time you approach a difficult situation in life, or even during your practice, remember this. Approach life with love, compassion, and enjoy learning. Put in the effort and the practice, but letting go and detaching from the outcomes.
Thank you for joining me for this dharma talk. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this!