Balancing a yoga practice can not be emphasized enough. A flow must have enough standing poses to seated. It must have a good warm up, to practice, to cool down ratio. Must have the right back bends, core strengthening poses, forward folds, inversions, twists, and side stretches – not to mention the theme or peak pose. It must have enough warm up, to pose, to counter pose ratio. All in all a yoga flow must have a strategic plan; but this is no news to anyone. However, no matter the careful planning teacher, or the bright eyed and dedicated student, often times, even with the various amount of balancing required to practice yoga, there are times where this sense of balance stays on the matt.
Few can forget that first yoga practice they left, and how it made them feel. The common descriptors of blissed out, yogagasim, or high, just never seem to be able to fully describe the sheer amount of emotional, mental, and physical release that happens during a good asana practice; and that first experience is delightfully powerful. Yet as one digs deeper into the practice of yoga, there sometimes can be a loosing of oneself to the sheer weight of enlightening power that yoga can have. Though I will never be the one to discourage a devoted spiritual, mental, and physical yoga discipline; I will point out that in order to take those practices off the matt and into the world one must remember to keep their feet on the ground.
To everything there is a balance, and an extreme. Even the most beautiful and seemingly pure ideas when taken to one extreme or the other can corrupt and become ugly. Furthermore the high in the sky ultra powerful vibrations can also have their extreme draw backs causing deep isolation and possible loss of communication. What I mean here is, we have all met those whom seem to have reached such great heights with their practice that they seem to have lost touch with reality. Either they are not informed, unwilling to see what is going on, very aggressive with their own methods, or all to often have a hard time being understood. Even we can fall pray to this during intensives with our own practice. We experience the moment when we are describing our reveled truths, only to have ghost eyes staring back at us, become very stubborn about our own ideals, deny problems in the reality surrounding us, or become completely blindsided by a major issue shaking the world. Although it would not only be beautiful and extraordinary to run away to a cave or ashram with our beloved teachers and gurus; remember that this is rarely a path for anyone; and in fact it is the gurus and teacher that we know whom have gone out in the world to teach and forgone the comfortable choice to isolate.
On the other hand, when we become to lackadaisical in our practice, on any level, we can fall prey to the mundane and material world. We can quickly become hardened to the misfortunes that befall us and our fellow living beings. We can obsess with our outward appearance and leave our inner one to decay. We can begin to focus too much on wealth, power, and fame. All of this can happen in even the most dedicated yoga circles, when just one of these factors come out of balance; this has become all to apparent in some of the recent yoga news. Further the need to cultivate a balanced yoga practice of the body, mind, heart, and spirit.
So then the issues are presented, how then can we find that perfect delicate balance between this world and the spirit? How can we stay rooted in our practice; but still maintain an open throat chakra to communicate what we have experienced and learned? Well it takes a intimate knowledge of the ego, an understanding of shifting realities, and a well maintained practice.
I firmly believe that we are all given an ego shell in this world pre programmed, to some extent, in order to navigate this life. In essence I feel that there are parts of the ego that have been layered on us based on our experiences, and there are other parts that just came with the package so to speak. These are parts of our core that were gifted to us in order to face the challenges of this world with grace and strength. Sometimes these traits have been used to shame us, other times these traits have been encouraged. It is learning what these traits are and unlearning the biases we have been taught that can help us hone them into serving us and our communities. When we do this we can also use them to help us stay balanced. I am not saying that we should identify with these traits, but rather as we begin to see our Highest Self though our practice, also recognizing and understanding the ego shell we were given. We see this idea a lot in different texts, such as stories of Shakti and Shiva, or the Ramayama. In each we see particular ego traits of the avatars of the Gods. Shakti is always very into shiny and beautiful things, still Shiva loves her because of this; she fulfills his other half through her love of what he has denounced though his practice. Rama, although he knows he is an incarnation of Vishnu, still holds on to his role and personality of this world recognizing that it is the affect of Maya; and that it is a part of his experience here.
As we begin to understand our own ego shells, and help separate them from our Selves, we can begin to build a foundation of a balanced life style for this world and our yoga. This practice not only needs to be maintained; but also should have flexibility. One of my favorite pop culture quotes comes from the movie “Dogma” by Kevin Smith. The main character, Bethany Slone, is lamenting to one of her friends at the beginning of the movie about how she no longer ‘feels’ anything at church. Her friend, in turn, quotes a friend of hers saying, “when you are young the cup is little and it takes less to fill the cup; but as you get older the cup gets bigger and the same amount wont fill the cup.” Such is true with any physical and spiritual practice. We need to remind ourselves we are always growing and experiencing new things. What might have gotten us to that super connected feel for the past ten years, might not be working for us right now; and that is okay. Adjust and realign with something that might work better now. Or something that might have worked in the past, might just pop up again in the present and be the exact spark we needed. Not only spiritually, but physically too.
Finally it is important to have a well maintained practice both on and off the matt. I am not just talking about being calmer and breathing through stress; but also finding a way to stay grounded and connected to this world so that you can understand and help people on their level. I would say add something to your routine that forces you to be in the physical world. Do not obsess with it; but allow it to let you seep into what this world has to offer. After all, even as we are all working to remove the constraints of this ego world, it is still here to be experienced and enjoyed. It is still a beautiful playground that should help us to further our spirits and ourselves; and cutting ourselves off from everything is not only harmful, but to some degree I feel insulting to all the work that was put into it. I am not saying go against ethical standards, or become attached; but do take some time to appreciate what is here. If you like the way makeup looks on you, do not feel as if you are becoming a slave to vanity for doing some when you go out; but also do not feel that you have to. Relish the flavor and smell of your foods without feeling gluttonous; but still eat in moderation. Feel confident and sexy in what you wear, while still recognizing that your body is but a vehicle for your spirit. Practice asana, meditate, and practice pranayama; but do not allow it to consume all your free time. Balance. Be present in the moment means that you are fully experiencing everything in front of you now, unattached and free.
Balancing a spiritual life within a material world is no easy task. It takes constant work and dedication; both staying elevated but also staying grounded. It is worthy to note that we are only able to help and serve those whom are able to hear us, and to do so we must first be able to understand and speak in the many languages of spirit as well as the ego.
Practice in Peace and Love ❤
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