As we reflect on the year that has been, whether you’re an experienced yogi or a beginner, it is interesting to ask the question “How do we know we are progressing in our yoga practice?” I asked this question at the start of one of our classes before the break and there were some great responses: “when the body and mind is more steady and calm” or “when I am able to do a more advanced pose”. All valid and correct responses.
Sharon Gannon of Jivamukti yoga says that you know you are progressing in your yoga practice when “you can say what you mean and mean what you say.” In other words, your inner world and your outer world are honest reflections of each other. When I first heard this I started bopping to the song “Say what you need to say” by John Meyer… it’s all about speaking your truth. When your thoughts, words and actions are in harmony – that is your yoga practice progressing!
The term ‘Yoga’ is translated as ‘union’. This true unity of mind, words and actions can be a profound reflection of how deep your yoga practice really is. Sometimes we think of real yogis to be those who can do advanced postures with ease and although this may certainly be true, it is not always the case.
When we start to live our lives less in ignorance (avidya) and with greater awareness and mindfulness, you can see yoga working within you. Awareness and mindfulness in how we think, speak and act. Are your words a reflection of your thoughts? Do you speak your truth? Are you honest and sincere? When we live less in ignorance, we tend to speak our truth with far more ease which then leads to more honest and sincere actions. And when I refer to ignorance here, it is not in reference to ignorance of knowledge. It is ignorance of our true Self. Click here to read more about avidya.
Have you ever had those “light bulb” moments? You know, the “ah ha!” moments of self-realisation? Something just suddenly makes sense. And when this internal shift happens, it usually draws you to take some sort of action. In my own life, I had a few “ah ha” moments in my teens when I started to consciously realise that when I ate meat, I was actually contributing to the suffering of other living beings. I started to make this connection as my conscience became more in tune with life, suffering and death. After seventeen years of being a vegetarian, I had another “ah ha” moment only six months ago where I realised that consuming dairy and eggs was also contributing to horrific acts of suffering towards animals. With this knowledge of truth, I had no internal choice but to take action and stop consuming these products. For me, my thoughts and actions became even more united. One thing I started to realise more recently is that although my thoughts and actions were in harmony in this particular case, my words were very few. I rarely spoke about animal welfare or the reasons why I was vegetarian for so many years unless of course I was asked directly and would always give a brief response. It is more recently I have become more confident to speak more honestly about these reasons and express them more fervently. I am finally starting to feel my words are beginning to express to my inner world on animal welfare issues – I feel more compelled to “say what I mean and mean what I say”.
So what is it for you? Is there an experience where your thoughts, words and actions are more in harmony perhaps as result of a more regular and refined yoga practice? How do you say what you mean and mean what you say?
When we finish each yoga class, we say “Namaste” to one another accompanied with Anjali Mudra (hand to the heart in prayer) and a small bow of the head. Namaste has slightly different translations but essentially means “the light/divine in me greets/salutes the light/divine in you”. What a beautiful and profound greeting! If these are the words we say to one another, do our thoughts genuinely mirror these words? What about our actions?
Think about your daily greetings…G’day, take care, be well, goodbye … do we honestly mean these deep down when we say them? Do you honestly feel it deep inside when you say to your friend or acquaintance, “take care”?
Bhakti yoga is translated as “devotional yoga”. It is about seeing everyone and everything as an image of God’s (or the divine) creation. If I greeted each person each day with that deep sense that I was greeting someone who is an image of the divine, how may my words or actions be any different? More mindful perhaps? More sincere?
In many Arab cultures, people greet each other with words like “Salam allah laykum” which means “peace be with you” or “Alla Makoon” which means “may God be with you”. In fact “goodbye” is the shortened version of the Old English “God be With You”. It is easy to be unaware how deeply engrained spirituality actually is in our culture… maybe we can try and say what we mean and mean what we say with the next person we happen to come across after reading this blog post. And start to consider the question “how do I know that my yoga practice is progressing?”…
“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man, the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” – Chief Seattle