Yoga Therapy International News
Yoga Therapy International’s Certified Yoga Therapist Program is now Internationally Accredited!
You haven’t heard much from me since February because I have been working on a big project! Yoga Therapy International‘s Certified Yoga Therapist (CYT) Program is now accredited with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)! It has been a rigorous process and was not easy to achieve, a living experience of tapas (Yoga Sutra-s II-1).
This improvisational-based kirtan group co-creates music together once a month with audiences of 20-30 people at Open Door Yoga, 1651 Commercial Drive, (enter from Gravely). Vince Gowmon, Maggie Reagh, Marvin Entz, and Dave Fogel will guide you through call and response devotional singing of Sanskrit mantras and original English songs, which open the heart and free the mind. Expect to get ecstatic!!! Join Spirit Voice on Facebook for more information.
The fourth route to Yoga through śraddhā (faith, trust, enthusiasm, interest, motivation), can be fanned though never taught. The more intense the śraddhā, the faster we arrive at our heart’s deepest desires, so fanning the fires of faith should be a priority for teachers, encouraging their students’ transformation.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-21
Tīvra (very high)-samvegānam(speed) āsannaḥ (be there – arrive)
The more śraddhā we have, the faster we will arrive at our goal of samadhi (enlightenment).
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-22
mṛdu (low) madhya (medium) adhimātra(high)-tvāt tatō (that)’pi(further) viśeṣaḥ (differentiates)
Śraddhā can be further differentiated by these three levels: low, medium, and high.
Faith is Taboo
The word “faith” immediate triggers ideas of being controlled and manipulated by a belief system that is not based in logic or science. In the West, we left the Dark Ages, the “Age of Faith”, in the 11th century with the early medieval universities, and later with the rebirth of art, culture, and humanism during the Renaissance. This culminated with the Age of Enlightenment/Reason, which questioned the authority of church over state and religion over science. Even though during the postmodern era, philosophers started to question our addiction to science and discursive logic, with its clearly defined subject-object relationships, most of us still revert to a modernist Enlightenment viewpoint that claims reason, logic, and science reign supreme over superstition, faith, and ignorance of the facts. If faith is equated with intellectual laziness and naïveté, why would we want to fan these fires of faith?
The Universe is Friendly
Contemporary metamodernist philosophers such as Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in Notes on Metamodernism are trying to bridge the gap between reason and faith as well as absolutes and relativism with an informed naïveté. They offer a bridge between the modernist faith in science and the post-modernist mistrust of it. They present a way to believe that life has meaning and purpose without falling back into superstitious belief systems. Chaos is tempered by knowing that there is an intelligence that pervades the whole.
This cultural shift can be seen in rhetoric from politics to sporting events. Barack Obama’s 2008 speech to Democratic Assembly asserted “Yes, we can change.” The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics’ motto for Team Canada was “I believe”. Both point to an optimism that was made mechanistic by the modernists and naïve by the post-modernists. Metamodernism bridges that schism of world views, restoring our faith in a life that often feels uncertain.
Trusting that the Universe is friendly, that our Life has a certain logical flow, and that we are on Earth to learn, can all help us live happier lives that feel safe to embody. In order to move forward in our lives with any goal, we need a good dose of faith. We would not even wake up in the morning if we didn’t have faith that the Sun would come up and shine on us again. To some extent, we need to believe that most things will continue to flow as they did yesterday. We need to believe that things are semi-permanent to survive the constant flux of life events. Depressive realism is a labeled as a psychological abnormality for a reason. We have to have faith and hope to survive our lives, which are constantly challenging us with unforeseen changes.
The Mind is Not as Smart as the Heart
As my monk friend Matthew used to say to me in India, “The mind is just not sharp enough to penetrate reality.” According to the Yoga tradition, practicing being present is the only way to bypass our addiction to thinking that the mind will free us from our suffering. We need to find ways to create space for our Hearts to be heard away from the daily grind of obligations and tasks. With that practice, we will start trusting (śraddhā) the wisdom of our Hearts, our intuition, and our deepest sense of Self. This faith will bring us much more comfort than a harsh intellectualism that refuses to believe in the impossible or the unseen worlds of the mystic.
Believing in your Self and your Life
When we have learnt to trust our Hearts over our heads, we have developed a level of wisdom that cannot be taught but can certainly be encouraged by our teachers and friends. As that trust deepens, the innocence (from Latin “to not harm”) of our presence expands. We start to radiate an authenticity that others can feel. We feel less fear about outcomes and more certainty that Life will provide us with exactly what we need at any given moment. As my Yoga Sūtra-s teacher, DV Sridhar once said to me over 10 years ago, “Live as if everything in your life is perfect and see what happens!” Now that is Faith!
Yoga Sutra Questions What do you believe in? Is your level of faith high, medium or low? Is it enough to motivate you to transform your life into the one your Heart is asking for? If not, how can you fan its fires to inspire such change?
As we continue to explore the five routes to experiencing Yoga, we open up the fourth pathway to a focussed, stable mind (citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ - see YS I-2) through the door of Trust.
The Five Pathways to Yoga
- Abhyāsa– By practicing – (Yoga Sūtra-s) YS I, 12-16
- Vairāgya – By detaching - YS I, 12-16
- Bhavapratyayo – By birth (naturally born in a state of Yoga) – YS I, 19
- Śraddhā – By trusting our Heart - YS I, 20-22
- Īśvara pranidhānā - By surrendering to the Highest - YS I, 23
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-20 śraddhā (trust, faith, enthusiasm, interest, inspiration) virya (energy) smṛti (memory) samādhi (enlightenment) prajña (intuitive knowledge) pūrvaka (before mentioned) itareṣam (other than)
By trusting in our true heart’s desire, we find the energy to move forward, remembering to keep on course towards that enlightened state of intuitive knowing called Yoga.
Trusting our Hearts without Attaching to Outcomes Other than those who are naturally in a state of Yoga by birth, the rest of us must get there through our own efforts (pathways 1-2). Trust (śraddhā) is the motivation behind those efforts to stay on course. It helps us to practice being present and detach from anything distracting us. We must trust (śraddha) in our deepest heart’s desire without attaching to any outcomes because one never knows in life. All we can do is be true to this inner calling without worrying about what it means or how it will manifest. This trust (śraddha) will provide us with the energy (virya) to move forward and will keep reminding (smṛti) us of what our heart is truly calling for even if the desired outcome appears to be impossible.
Taming the Wild Horse Mind In this Chinese New Year of the Horse, the wild horse mind can take us towards many possibilities that seem equally compelling. We need to keep on course to guide that horse towards our deepest heart’s desire. As we saw last fall, it often takes letting go (vairāgyam) of old patterns to let in (abhyāsa) new ones. It often feels safer to hold on to what we know than to step out into something new with no certain outcomes. What fuels us to make those changes?
Enthusiasm – The Fuel of Transformation Where there is interest (śraddhā), there is energy (virya). This enthusiasm (from the Greek “being filled with Spirit”) helps us to remember (smṛti) where we are going and why. When that energy is lacking, ask yourself why. Maybe you are off course. Maybe there is another path which will bring you greater Joy (ānanda), inspiring you to live your life on purpose.
Is it Love or Lust? The Play of the Three Guna-s: Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva Sometimes we feel filled with apathy. We feel uninspired to get out of bed and face the tasks of our day. This is called tamas (heaviness, darkness, laziness). Other times we feel inspired to make a change, but those passions (rajas) are short lived. We fall in lust with a person or an idea, but it doesn’t last. By contrast, when we feel śraddha, we may be filled with a Love that doesn’t die. Something deep within us compels us to act. Our Hearts are running the show, and our heads are along for the ride. Nothing can stop us from reaching our heart’s true desire.
This śraddha (faith, trust) is a sattvic (pure, balanced) quality of mind that naturally arises when we are centred in the Heart and grounded in the body. The first goal of Yoga is to develop this sattvic state of being, freeing us from both debilitating lethargy (tamas) and unsustainable passion (rajas) to rather enjoy a balanced, grounded, pure state of being (sattva). In this mind-body state, we find our deepest Heart’s desire. It fills us with the trust and innocence of sattvic (pure) child, who dares do exactly what she wants with great enthusiasm(śraddha) and energy (viryam), continuously remembering (smrti) to play in the truth of her being (samādhi prajña).
Yoga Sutra Questions What is your Heart calling you to do right now? Do you have the energy to do it? If not, is your Heart just not into it? Are you lacking a particular direction for a fundamental reason? Is it time to change course?
Last fall, we started exploring the first two ways of the experiencing Yoga in our body-minds before uncovering the open Heart (Yoga Sūtra-s I, 18).
The Five Routes to Experiencing Yoga:
Abhyāsa– By practicing – (Yoga Sūtra-s) YS I, 12-16
Vairāgya – By detaching - YS I, 12-16
Bhavapratyayo – By birth (naturally born in a state of Yoga) – YS I, 19
Śraddhā – By trusting in your goal - YS I, 20-22
Īśvara pranidhānā - By surrendering to the Highest - YS I, 23
This month, we will discover the last three routes to this mystery called Yoga: by birth, by trust, and by surrender. Today, we will delve into the angelic realm of experiencing Yoga by birth and consider the up and down sides of being naturally gifted in any domain.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra-s (YS) I-19 Bhava(to be)-pratyayo(with an empty mind) videha(angelic)-prakṛti(nature/bodies)-layānām(reincarnation)
There are also angelic beings who reincarnate with empty minds.
Natural Yogis – No Effort Required
Have you ever met someone who seems to radiant Light and kindness with an effortless ease? Does it seem like they are calm and relaxed most of the time even though they do no spiritual practices nor have a history of such practices? If so, they might be a natural yogi, born with an empty mind and open Heart!
Patanjali says there are such deva-s (angelic beings of Light) who don’t have to go through the process of transformation (YS I, 17-18) that the rest of us do. They don’t have to practice Patanjali’s 8-limbed approach (YS II, 29) to Yoga at all. They don’t have to do anything to empty their minds and enter into a state of samadhi (YS I, 18). They are naturally in that state of enlightenment by birth.
These are likely the Buddhist bodhisattva-s (pure=sattvic + minds=buddhi-s) of the Yoga tradition, who achieved enlightenment (samadhi) in a previous life, but have chosen to reincarnate to serve the world’s suffering.
The Upside of Being a Natural Yogi
This sūtra reminds me of a colleague at my University who never does spiritual practices and in fact, says she is an atheist, but is one of the most evolved souls I have ever met. We all so appreciate her because of her calm, loving demeanor with seeming effortlessness and stability. With such stability, you can always count on her to be there for you when the chips are down – a rock in a sometimes stormy world.
When I compare myself to her, I know that it has taken me 20 years of practice to achieve such stability and even now, I still get thrown off course at times by the karmic dumps of life! How can it be? How can she always be so calm and seemingly unfettered by challenging life events? Maybe she was just born that way!
The Downside of Being Naturally Gifted
Then, I am reminded that in order to become a great Yoga teacher, one needs to pass through the fires of transformation personally, not theoretically. Those special individuals who are natural born yogi-s are not always the best Yoga teachers because they haven’t had to make the same efforts as the rest of us have to achieve stability of body, breath, and mind.
In the same way, those who are naturally gifted and good at their jobs often get easily bored. They are always switching careers because they are not being challenged enough. They also get impatient easily because they can’t suffer fools gladly.
The Gift of Experience
The naturally gifted in any area, in fact, are not usually the best teachers. For instance, the best hockey coaches are sometimes those who were only mediocre players in the NHL. A fabulous music teacher might never have made a living as a performing artist at the top of her field.
There is a gift to having learnt through the school of hard knocks and challenging life experiences. We who have learnt the hard way often have much compassion for others who are still in the throes of suffering. We can offer solace based on personal experience to those who are still in the process of transformation. We can become great teachers of how to move from darkness to Light because we ourselves have been in our students’ or friends’ shoes not so long ago.
Yoga Sutra Questions
What do you do for a living? Does it involve something you are naturally gifted in or something that presents some challenges for you to overcome? Does it offer you room to evolve and grow as a person? If not, have you considered changing to a career that does?