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

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yoga (Asana) classes?

One of the yoga students requested the yoga teacher to give a "gentle" yoga asana session this morning, as after a few days of continuous yoga asana practice, the physical body was experiencing discomfort sensations like muscles fatigue, tightness and soreness.

This was the teaching in the class today...

This is what yoga practice is about. It is being aware of the reality of the present moment now as it is, and accept the reality as it is, without generate craving or aversion towards the pleasant or unpleasant experiences... This physical body is now experiencing discomfortable sensations coming from a few days of yoga asana practice, is actually a great opportunity for us to learn how to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it's not necessarily the way that we like it to be, nor the way that we think it should be. As well as we are learning, experiencing, observing and accepting about the truth that everything is impermanent. It doesn't matter they are pleasant or unpleasant sensations, thoughts, conditions or feelings, they all are impermanent...

The yoga asana class is just being what it is. It is not an intense session nor a gentle session. In the same yoga asana class, there are some students might be very fit, strong and flexible physically, and some others might be less fit, less strong and less flexible... Those who have stronger physical condition and are familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say this yoga asana session is an easy and gentle session (for them). While the others who have poorer physical condition and are not so familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say that this yoga asana session is a difficult and intense session (for them). But the yoga asana poses and exercises in the yoga asana classes have no qualities nor intentions to be something easy or difficult, gentle or intense... The yoga asana class is neither a beginner level nor advance level class. When our body can do it, our mind will judge "it's easy", and when our body cannot do it (yet), our mind will judge "it's difficult". The same exercises everyone is doing, some will say it's easy, and some will say it's difficult, but the exercises itself has no quality or intention to be something easy or difficult...

Yoga, or peace and compassion, is not determined by how strong and flexible we are to perform the yoga asana poses, nor it is about how perfect we can perform the asana poses, nor how good we look and feel during and after performing the asana poses or exercises, nor whether we can perform all the yoga asana poses or not...

And performing the yoga asana poses and exercises in a yoga class is not about trying to attain good feelings or pleasant sensations, or to avoid unpleasant sensations... It is not about "I only want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I like to do, and I don't want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I don't like to do...", or "I only want to do the exercises that will make my body feels comfortable, and I don't want to do any exercises that will make my body feels uncomfortable..."

Yoga asana practice in yoga classes are here for us to find out what is the ego and how to be free from the ego, or how to let go of the ego... It is for us to practice non-attachment or letting go of attachment. It is for us to practice letting go of the identification with the body and mind. It is about letting go of craving and clinging onto the objects or conditions that we like and agree with, and letting go of aversion towards the objects or conditions that we don't like and disagree with...

Yoga asana practice and its exercises are here for us to purify the mind, to remove impurities, to balance the mind, to calm the mind, to silent the mind and to channel or direct the mind to contemplate on the Truth of things, names and forms, and to inquire who am "I"... It is to eliminate ignorance to know the Truth... During the yoga asana class, we are limiting or restricting our thoughts, physical activities and speech by focusing on learning and performing the exercises and yoga poses. Most of the yoga poses request paramount of concentration being in the present moment, and letting go of fear, for us to be able to do it. And during this period of time our body and mind is being busy engaging in performing wholesome yoga asana exercises, and stop engaging in unwholesome thinking, physical activities and speech.

Attending yoga (asana) classes is not about expecting the teacher to give us something that we prefer, or what we like it to be, or what we can agree with... It is about learning to be open-minded to adapt and accommodate the exercises that we are not familiar with, and to adjust ourselves into any types of exercises with knowing our own physical limitations, and we do our best without forcing, nor trying to challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations. We don't have to force ourselves to perform all the exercises in the yoga class. We don't have to look like other people in the yoga class, or be like the yoga teacher when we perform the asana poses, as we all have a different body and having different physical limitations. We should know when to take some rest and when to continue practice. We should know whether it is the ego rejects to continue the practice, or it is the physical body has come to its limitations and it needs to take some rest... We learn to become our own teacher and take full responsibility for taking care of the well-being of our body and mind.

We learn to forbear or withstand certain amount of physical "discomforts" coming from performing the yoga exercises (this discomfortable sensation is not the same as the sharp painful sensations coming from muscular tendon injuries due to pushing our body over its limitations, which is an alarm warning us that we should not go beyond that limitation), and allow the physical body to improve its stamina, strength and flexibility gradually as we practice regularly. And allowing the physical body to continue to practice the exercises that it doesn't familiar with until it can adjust and adapt into all these yoga exercises.

Unless the physical body is experiencing or suffering from certain injuries or illness, then we should allow the physical body to take some rest and avoid performing certain physical activities that will stimulate or exaggerate the injuries or illness. In order to improve physical fitness level, we need to "push" the physical body to its maximum limits, but not beyond its limitations, so that we can train the body to become fitter, stronger and more flexible without injuring it...

In the beginning of our yoga asana practice, it is normal that our body will feel discomfort, struggle, tiredness and soreness from time to time, as the physical body needs regular practice to adjust and adapt into the physical activities that it doesn't familiar with, and it needs to take sufficient rest in between practices. Then only the physical body can improve its overall fitness level with continuous regular practice... Eventually as we continue performing the exercises while enduring some discomfort sensations due to the unfamiliar physical activities, the stamina, strength and flexibility will improve, and all these muscles fatigue, tightness and soreness will become less and less... Our body will develop stronger endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility.

This practice of non-attachment is not just being observed or practiced in yoga classes while performing the yoga exercises, but it is every moment in our heart, in our life, we are practicing non-attachment. We learn to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it is not what we like it to be. We accommodate the discomfortable or difficult situations or conditions. It is not about trying to change the situations or conditions that we don't like, into something that we like it to be to accommodate us, but we are able to adjust and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable, or difficult conditions or situations. When we experience some discomfortable situations or difficult conditions in life, we do not, or cannot ask life to be easy and gentle on us... Instead we accept the reality as it is, adjust and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable or difficult conditions and situations, and accommodate the present conditions or situations that we don't like or disagree with, in peace...

This is the inner strength and flexibility that we want to develop in our yoga practice while performing the yoga asana exercises... It is about life. It is not just in a yoga class performing some yoga asana poses, and telling ourselves and other people that we are practicing yoga, or we have done our yoga practice everyday, but then in life, we attached to the body and mind, over-powered by the ego, and we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined by our craving and aversion towards the situations and conditions that we like and dislike, agreeable and disagreeable... It is about being able to be undisturbed, unaffected, uninfluenced or undetermined by the qualities of names and forms that our mind perceives through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think, without generating craving and aversion... It is knowing and accepting the truth of things as they are. Knowing that everything is just what they are... They are not something good or bad, positive or negative, happy or suffering...

Compassion is not just about performing some good and kind actions in the world. It is about accepting the reality as it is, and accepting everything and everyone as they are... There is no fear, no worry, no anger, no hatred, no greed, no dissatisfaction, no selfish desires, no selfish expectation, no discrimination towards all the different qualities of names and forms, no preferences of likes and dislikes, no attachment towards the qualities of names and forms, no jealousy, no possessiveness, no pride, no arrogance, no disappointment, no criticism, no condemn, no attachment towards the actions and the result of the actions... It is realizing what is non-duality, namelessness and formlessness, oneness, non-separateness, and being free from dissatisfaction, restlessness, unpeacefulness or suffering that comes along with impurities or ignorance...

In the process of learning and trying to perform the yoga practice and yoga asana poses or exercises in yoga classes, we are actually developing inner strength and inner flexibility. These are the positive qualities that will allow us to realize unconditional peace and compassion that will free us from ignorance, doubts, impurities, restlessness, dissatisfaction, anger, hatred, disappointment, fear, worry, unhappiness or suffering.

The physical strength and flexibility are just a side product coming from performing the yoga exercises. It is not the main purpose of performing the yoga practice.

We should be developing patience, perseverance, determination, will-power, forbearance, withstand, acceptance, tolerance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness, courage, positive thinking, observation, mindfulness, awareness, thoughtfulness, humility, concentration, being in the present moment, one-pointedness, self-disciplinary, non-judgment, non-comparison, non-expectation, non-identification, non-attachment and letting go of the ego, during the process of learning and practicing the yoga asana poses, breathing exercises, chanting, studying or contemplating on the yoga teachings, selfless service, self-control or self-restraint, concentration exercises and meditation practice.

These positive qualities act as a medium, or a tool, or an instrument for us to render the mind calm and pure, for meditation or contemplation upon the Truth, to realize our true nature as it is, which is unconditional peace and compassion.

Without these positive qualities, it is not easy for us to realize peace and compassion, as we will be easily be annoyed, frustrated, irritated, angry, disappointed or hurt by the objects of the senses or names and forms that we don't like and disagree with. There is no peace, as we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined or over-powered by all the impurities that arise in the mind coming from the reactions of the egoistic mind towards what it perceives through the senses, from moment to moment.

When we hear the yoga teachings about "Go beyond the physical body", it doesn't mean that we challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations to make it stronger and more flexible than what it is now, but it is about go beyond the attachment or identification with the physical body. Let go of the identification with the impermanent conditions and abilities of the physical body as "I", as making the body stronger and more flexible, or being able to perform many asana poses, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion... Peace and compassion doesn't come from being physically strong and flexible...

Being a "vegetarian" or "non-vegetarian" is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being a good person or bad person is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Performing good actions or bad actions is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being highly educated or having limited education is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being artistic or not, creative or not, intelligent or not, is also not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Being in good conditions or bad conditions in life, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Having a good physical condition or poor physical condition is not a guarantee of peace and compassion...

Peace and compassion is our true nature as it is. It is realizing the Truth, realizing namelessness and formlessness, or attributeless-ness, or non-duality, or oneness, or non-separateness...

It is going beyond the attachment towards all the qualities of names and forms that will allow us to realize our true nature which is unconditional peace and compassion.

Yoga is not about being positive... It is about not attached to the qualities of names and forms, or to go beyond what our mind believes is positive and negative, happiness and suffering, good and bad... As it is not the truth of what things really are. Everything is just what it is. They have no qualities or intentions to be good or bad, positive or negative, happiness or suffering... All these "qualities" are coming from our own mind, what our mind wants to believe what things are...

And so, allow the teacher to teach whatever the teacher wants to teach in the yoga class, without expecting the yoga class to be something that we prefer or what we like it to be... But we adjust and adapt ourselves into the practice that are new to us, or being different from what we familiar with... In the same session, some students will prefer more gentle form of exercises, and some will prefer more intense form of exercises, even if the class is stated "gentle yoga class" or "intense yoga class"... As we all have different expectation or projection towards what types of gentleness is "gentle" and what is not, or what types of intensity is "intense" and what is not... A gentle class can be too gentle for certain people or might not be gentle enough for some other people. An intense class can be too intense for certain people or might not be intense enough for some other people... Everyone has different types of physical stamina, strength and flexibility, different types of physical limitations, and different types of likes and dislikes towards certain asana poses or exercises...

The physical exercises and its effects that come from attending yoga (asana) classes are here for us to be aware of our ego, and not being influenced by craving and aversion that comes from the ego...

Om shanti.

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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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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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