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May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Frequent Question About Daily Yoga Practice

People frequently ask us about do we have a fixed "yoga practice routine" on certain time during the day to do our own yoga practice beside teaching yoga classes, to maintain our physical strength and flexibility as well as to upkeep our "skill" in performing the asana poses.

This is what I tell them.

Yoga is not about the physical strength and flexibility but it's about the inner strength and inner flexibility.

Someone who is not strong and is not flexible, and who cannot perform any physical activities like asana practice or cannot perform sitting postures for meditation due to physical limitation or injuries or illnesses are still able to be practicing yoga. While someone who is very fit physically, and can perform lots of complicated movements or skillfully required kind of yoga poses may not be practicing yoga at all.

Yoga is nothing to do with the condition or the ability of the physical body to perform such and such actions. It is nothing to do with what our bodies can do and cannot do.

No doubt that yoga practices are important sequences or steps for helping us to reach to the higher state of consciousness, but they are not the guarantee of true happiness if we didn't know what is the law of impermanence, non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego.

But a person who is constantly practicing non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego, is the guarantee of true happiness even if this person doesn't know or cannot perform any "yoga practices", such like asana practice, pranayama and meditation.

Non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego are the real meditation in our heart from moment to moment in everyday lives.

Even if we practice a lot of asana poses and our bodies become very strong, flexible and healthy, this still won't change the truth of impermanence and the law of cause and effect. We will still be affected by our past accumulated karma and are affected by all the impermanent changes in our bodies and minds all the time, unless we are practicing non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego. This body will still have to go through impermanence, changes, decaying, weakening, illnesses, pain and decomposition sooner or later, no matter how much we try to preserve it through the good and beneficial yoga practices. The mind is still going through impermanence, changes, experiencing happiness and unhappiness, having craving and aversion, and is continuing having tensions that derive from impurities like anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, arrogance, dissatisfaction, disappointment, irritation, frustration, expectation, fear and worry.

From moment to moment our bodies are going through changes. The condition of the physical body may vary from time to time. How can we have a fixed "routine" to meet the requirement of the different conditions of the physical body. Everyday we may be doing different practices at different timing to adapt to the needs of the present condition of the body and mind.

Of course all the asana poses, pranayama, concentration exercises and meditation practice are there to help us to balance up the energy in our bodies and minds, to help purifying the body and mind, so that the body and mind get relieved from physical and mental tensions and becoming calm and relax. But what is the meaning of making effort to relieve tensions, when we continue to generate tensions into the body and mind all the time if we don't know what is non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego?

If we are practicing non-attachment, acceptance, letting go and surrendering the ego from moment to moment, and are at peace, free from tensions, undisturbed by all the changes that are happening in our bodies and minds, unaffected by whatever is happening in our lives and in the world, then what are the "fixed routines" that we need to "practice" everyday?

Non-attachment is not about running away from our lives, our families, our responsibilities and duties, but it is about not attaching to the body and mind, not attaching to our actions, not attaching to what the mind perceives through the senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thinking), remain equanimous and peaceful not generating craving towards the pleasant experiences or aversion towards the unpleasant experiences.

Acceptance and letting go are not about giving up ourselves and not improving ourselves, but it's about accepting the truth or reality as it is without any dissatisfaction and yet continue to strive for improvement to become better without any tensions that derive from expectation, fear and worry. When we cannot accept the truth as it is, and are dissatisfied with the present moment now of how we are, who we are and where we are, and we are looking for changes or try to runaway from what we don't like about, then we will be full of tensions that derive from judgment, comparison, expectation, dissatisfaction, fear and worry. And so, we again try to free ourselves from tensions by doing some yogic practices but at the same time, we are continuing generating more tensions into the body and mind endlessly. The bucket that has a big hole underneath can never fill up whatever we want to put in.

Surrendering the ego is not about negating or neglecting ourselves and put ourselves in a bad condition, but it is about letting go of selfishness, fear and worry, and allowing the universal consciousness to take care of everything. We just do our best in whatever we are doing for the benefits for ourselves and for other beings, but without the identification as the doer of the actions without any judgment and expectations. Just like the sun, the air, the water, the earth and the space. They give, provide and support all and everything to be exist in the world motivelessly, intentionlessly, selflessly, endlessly, unlimitedly, unconditionally, tirelessly, without any discrimination of good and bad beings, and without any expectation for the results or rewards.

All these are great compassion and wisdom. These are the essence of yoga practice. This is the goal of yoga practice.

So, does the sun or the air or the water or the earth or the space practice any so called "yoga routines" everyday? Or are they performing nameless and formless compassionate actions all the time unceasingly?

Doing adequate of yoga exercises for maintaining the good health and the fitness level of the physical body is certainly a very good thing to do, so that we can appreciate this body and its life existence for us to continue to perform selfless service to ourselves and to other beings. We follow whatever the needs of the body and mind are, when it is needed, and practice accordingly to the present condition of the body and mind. And when the time comes for us to let go of this body, we have no clinging towards this body and the relationships with others that spring from this body and its life existence.

Never see ourselves as separated or different from other beings. There is no superiority or inferiority. There is no giver and receiver. There is no "teacher" and "student". There is no "I'm helping somebody" and "somebody is benefited from my action". There is no motive and expectation. Every action is out of compassion and egoless. We wish all beings be free from ignorance and be happy including "this" being. Be compassionate towards all beings including "this" being also. "This" being is also one of all beings.

Be the witness witnessing whatever the body and the mind are experiencing from moment to moment. The mind feels good or bad, it's just the mind, not us. The mind feels comfortable or discomfortable, it's just the mind, not us. The mind gets agitated, it's just the mind, not us. The mind feels peaceful and happy, it's just the mind, not us. The body is in pain and is ill, it's just the body, not us. We are the witness of all these phenomena but we are not identifying nor associating nor affected by them.

Be the witness of the body and mind, and not being overpowered by the body and mind.

This is the yoga practice that we all are practicing unceasingly from moment to moment. There's no trace of "doing yoga practice" and no one knows nor needs to know but "myself".

Be happy.

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Know thyself. There is no existence of 'I'. Everything is impermanent. Be free, be peaceful, be happy.

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Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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