Saturday, February 28, 2009

43/59 - Farewell to the Yamas

9:30 am with Connease

To begin with, the room was a bit cold and clammy -- 93 degrees and 46 humidity.  I've had trouble with those conditions before, so I told myself I wouldn't push too hard.  I don't know how many times I've told myself that I would take it easy, then only to get caught up, pushing harder, and ending up exhausted.  Today was no different.  I wiped myself out by Triangle, and had to sit out a set.

It's funny how that works.  Because I was going to take it easy later, I decided to push things just a bit harder than usual in Pranayama.  Why not, since the rest of the class would be easier, and it would help to make up for the early cold temperature.  Then, I managed to ease off a bit at the beginning of Half Moon, but that felt good, so I pushed at the end of the pose when encouraged to push.  And then I threw myself into the back and forward bends.  And from there on, I was probably going harder than usual, all thoughts of holding back basically having fled.

Then, toward the end of class, I got the feeling that Connease was skimping on Savasana to make up for lost time.  A few other teachers have done that, and it makes the end of class very draining.  I tried to stay with things, but ended up coming out of the last few poses just a hair early.  Overall, not a great day for my stamina.  I did, however, manage the class without water again.

Today, we hit the end of Gates' discussion of the yamas.  He says that they are only five words, but these words define a saint, and encompass a lifetime's worth of work.  They are simple but not easy.

There are some important aspects to the yamas that I think bear repeating:

1)  They are practical, not theoretical.  The idea is to try to live these principles as best you can, not to try to test them with puzzles and conundrums.

2)  They don't come with a guide to their interpretation.  One person's application of the yamas to a situation might differ from another persons.  And there is not necessarily anything wrong with that.  

3)  They are phrased as negative injunctions:  non-harming, non-lying, non-stealing, moderation, and non-hoarding.  But, I think each of them can embody a paired positive value as well:  love or caring, honesty, generosity, balance, and open-mindedness or lightheartedness.

I haven't talked at all about the positive aspect of non-hoarding.  As it applies to thinking, the point of non-hoarding is not to cling to ideas that are doing us no good.  I think the positive value of this is being open minded.  Then, thinking more about it, I decided that a spirit of openness in general was what counters the clinging, clenching aspect of hoarding.  And I can't think of a better way to describe that general openness than as a lightness of heart.

4) The yamas all apply to thought, word, and deed.  This idea flows naturally from yoga being the union of mind, body and spirit.  Because of this union, in the end there is no sound distinction between a thought, a word, or an action.  I still think a harmful action is worse than a harmful thought, if only because harmful actions hurt others while a harmful thought will primarily only hurt yourself.  On the other hand, if you managed to cleanse yourself of harmful thoughts, you probably wouldn't be committing many harmful actions.  

The yamas are only the first limb of the sevenfold path.  So, in some ways the starting point is living a life of caring, truth, generosity, and balance with an open and light heart.  That's a pretty good start.  Gates says that in striving to do this, we cease to take counsel from our fears.  So, yes, its only five words.  But they are five pretty good words.

1 comment:

Ellen Morrison said...

Aloha Duffy,

Thanks for commenting on my blog the other day. I appreciate your insight on non-harming verses non-violence.
I can also totally relate to deciding to take a class easy and somehow ending up pushing even harder than usual. Seems to me that many who are drawn to Bikram are sort of over-achiever types. We thrive on the intensity of the practice but then have a hard time not pushing ourselves hard all the time. Generally, I need to learn to back off a little myself.
Anyway, keep up the great work.