I stayed up rather late last night crafting a post for today based on all of the fun we had with teacher training this weekend. Most of it was about how awesome I felt after being able to assume several challenging asanas that had eluded me in the past.
But then I read this fabulous post by Jenn, one of my fellow teacher trainees, and everything I had written seemed somehow like I missed the point. Because after all, yoga isn't about the poses that you can (or can't) do, it's about the lessons you learn as you live your life off the mat.
As the day progressed and I faced some challenges and frustrations (or, really, contemplated how to address the challenges and frustrations which lie ahead of me), three recent lessons that we have discussed during training came to mind.
The first lesson is a story from Osho's "Creativity."
If I'm being honest with myself (and I usually am), I can definitely relate to Nasruddin's wife in this scenario. I'm sure Duff Man would agree too. I generally don't intend to be contrary--but I am strong-willed and passionate and I stand up for what I believe in--even if it isn't popular or might sometimes get me in trouble. I'm in one of those situations right now where I recognize that I'm swimming upstream... and yet I continue to do so, because if I don't say something then I'm not being honest with myself. And satya is important, right?
The second lesson I've been contemplating is how I can demonstrate the actions outlined in the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of the Eight-fold Path of Patanjali.
The Yamas and Niyamas are ways of interacting with the outside world (Yamas) and internal characteristics to nurture within the self (Niyamas). "The yamas and niyamas are actually descriptions of a nature that has been freed from the illusion of separateness." (Donna Farhi, "Teaching Yoga," p. 11).
I need to focus on removing the concept of duality and work to recognize that "we are all a small part of the greater divine." (I wish I could remember the sanskrit for that!) As I interact with others, even when I disagree with them I need to work on seeing our commonalities--because ultimately we are all the same.
The final lesson is the story of Virabhadra.
(Note: The version linked isn't quite the same story I learned. Check out Myths of the Asanas for my version.)
Sita loves Shiva. She marries him, much to her father, Dhaksa's, chagrin. Dhaksa throws a huge party and doesn't invite Shiva. Sita tells Dhaksa that she's sad that he won't accept her husband. Dhaksa doesn't really care. Sita goes up in flames. Shiva is pissed that Sita is dead, so he tosses his dreadlock to the ground and up burrows Virabhadra (Virabhadrasana I), the warrior. He chops Dhaksa's head off (Virabhadrasana II), then he picks up the Dhaksa's head and presents it to Shiva (Virabhadrasana III.) Who knew that the myths behind the asanas were so... gory?
Anyway, Sita reincarnates herself right away and tells off Shiva for having her dad offed. Shiva realizes he shouldn't have acted out of anger and, although Dhaksa's head is now useless, there happens to be a perfectly good goat head laying around. Shiva attaches the goat head to Dhaksa's body, Dhaksa is pleased and accepts his son-in-law. Happy ending all around, except for the whole goat head thing. (As an aside--now that I think about it, I wonder if Mario Puzo was into yoga...)
So, the moral of the story is that if you mess up, you need to use just as much energy to correct your mistakes as you did to make them in the first place.
All of that mumbo jumbo basically boils down to this: In order to live my yoga off the mat this week, I am working to have the self-awareness to realize that I don't always think the same way as others. Even when I disagree with someone, I am working to recognize our commonalities--because ultimately we are all the same. However, if I do happen to lash out and react inappropriately, I will spend just as much energy to rectify my wrongdoings as I did to create the mess in the first place.
And maybe I should also keep a spare goat head and a needle & thread hanging around for a while. You know, just in case.