You know, it occurred to me during a class the other day, that I talk a lot in class. A lot. I have an almost stream-of-conscious flow going with words to match the flow of whatever is happening in sequence. I’m told it is really helpful and my students appreciate the detailed information and descriptions I give which is just as well. Lol.
But it also occurred to me that I tend to throw in words with which I am very familiar, but which may not be as familiar to those practicing with me especially if they are relatively new to yoga.
Soooo, here are the most common Sanskrit terms you’d be likely hear in a class you take with me:
Asana – posture or pose - this one is pretty straightforward!
Drishti – gaze – maybe less commonly heard, I really like this term in the original as it implies not only the physical gaze and where it’s helpful for you to be looking, eg big toe, thumb, ceiling, but also a sense of internal gazing – raised consciousness, awakening and awareness.
Chakra – a chakra is an energy center and there are seven. Asana, mantra and mudra plus a few other yogic practices work on the opening up and activation of chakra energy in many different ways – this gets into the subtle and energetic body side of things. I’ve been talking and directing attention to Anahata (the Heart chakra) quite a lot recently – compassion and joy in the season of Spring.
Prana – breath, but also life force or energy – whole scholarships have been dedicated to defining this, but lets just say it’s important and breath and breathing are an essential in yoga. Extend your breath, extend your life force and vital energy…. no breath, no space, no air, no energy, no life. yogainternational.com/article/view/understanding-prana
Om shanti shanti shanti – the Sanskrit mantra for universal peace. Om is the sound of creation, the universe, all time, space and matter and the indivisible unity of all things. Shanti means peace. Universal peace. Say it often and wish it well to all. Mantras create powerful vibrational energy when chanted. Every one is fighting or tormented by something, often something that comes from within but often from without too, from fear, to anxiety, to self-doubt, to greed, to jealousy and so on, and everyone deserves a bit of peace from that. The world would be a better place if we could all figure out how to be a bit more at peace with ourselves. https://www.wildmind.org/ mantras/figures/shanti
Namaste/Namaskar/Añjali Mudra – Namaste can be translated to mean “the divine/ light in me recognises and salutes the divine/ light in you” and is a form of greeting that’s often used to open or close a yoga class. It is very loving, kind and respectful. Namaskar is the action of greeting (salutation as in Surya Namaskar) as well as a substitute for saying Namaste, and Anjali Mudra is the gesture of bringing the hands together in front of the heart. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Namaste
STHIRA AND SUKHA: STEADINESS AND EASE – in caps on purpose. This is what we all seek in yoga! Yoga postures were never supposed to be torturous and painful. https:// yogainternational.com/ article/view/sthira-and- sukha-steadiness-and-ease
Surya Namaskar - a sun salutation – it is said that every movement in yoga can be found in the sun salutation, which is a sequence of asana in a set order that most Hatha and Ashtanga classes start with. A great reason to get down with them. If you can make it through Surya Namaskar, you’ve got it!
That's it for now from me and thanks for reading. Of course, if there’re other phrases or words that crop up that pique your curiosity do drop me a chat on WhatsApp, or an email and ask me about them! I'll do what I can to interpret and explain and where I can't I'll seek out the answer from those even better in the know.... See you soon I hope and in the meantime: Peace. Namaste. Ommmmmm shanti. :)
What a novel idea! Not mine originally I hasten to add, but one worth entertaining I think. And as a result, here’s what I’ve been noticing recently. There’s so much emphasis today about working on oneself, self-development, improvement, being better, doing better, living better. On achieving a higher state of being so we can overcome ourselves. It’s become a bit of an obsession spawning a vast array of methods, designs for living, tools, professions even, all with their own take on the new wellbeing craze and how to get to that “best state of being”. But what if the real antidote to feeling (suffering from) that modern malaise of dissatisfaction were simply just to stop trying so hard to “fix” things?
I’ve been listening a lot to teachings on Mindfulness for a teacher training I’m on at the moment and the key things that keep coming up are these:
So it seems perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Being “good at” yoga or meditation or whatever misses the point and simply won't help - it becomes just another way of seeking to change how we are, whilst being unaware of how we are in the first place. Letting go of anything can be very difficult because most things stem from or can be so easily corrupted from their original true purpose by the social patterns of doing and thinking to which we are soooooo conditioned. So conditioned we don’t even notice them really. We tend to want to just layer more things on top in the hope that will solve everything for us. But it won't. As Rumi says, "maybe you researching in the branches for what only appears in the roots.
So it follows that a good place to start is with raising awareness and acceptance of ourselves in our own particular context. EXACTLY AS WE ARE however repulsive or unattractive, the unfortunate reality of how people feel about themselves these days in many cases, that may seem and how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
We as humans are an embodiment of nature and life and perhaps are not able to, or in fact don’t need to, conquer or change that. Perhaps we just need to sit with ourselves. The reality is we are driven by our desires and most of what we do has an underlying vested self-interest – why? Biology – survival and satisfaction of need. It’s quite simple in fact.
But where does that us lead? Taken to the extreme it can be extremely nihilistic and dark. There’s no real point to all this because we are just animals and it doesn’t matter. We are all just selfish creatures and so it has to be survival of the fittest (enter Capitalism – I have nothing against it per se, but left unchecked……well, look around you). Indeed many, many people do pursue this to its logical conclusion and as we are witnessing it engenders a life denying, destructive pattern, in which many of us find we are stuck. Feel crap through the comparisons of not having what they’ve got or burn out through striving for more, more, more. Consume, consume, consume. Numb out. Destroy -ourselves and the planet - in the process.
And when you look at it, it really all comes down to avoidance of something. And we now seem to be at risk of simply turning towards using “healthy” mechanisms of avoidance as much as “unhealthy” ones. Avoidance is avoidance whatever the method of doing so. Avoidance of feelings, avoidance of fears, avoidance of doubt, striving to feel good all the time.
Mark Whitwell gave a great satsang recently on a visit to Koh Phan Gan in Thailand titled (very tongue-in-cheek) the Hoax of Enlightenment
(you can watch it here. It’s long, but worth it! https://www.facebook.com/amanecurated/videos/2324143334489702) The point, which he makes far more eloquently and at greater depth than I can here, is each individual one of us is already everything that we need to be if we can just cut through all the bullshit layering and conditioning to which we are subject, and that yoga asana, or whatever practice you chose, is simply an enhancing tool to participate in the pure intelligence of the body, spirit and mind that is already inherent in everyone. That’s true yoga he asserts. The Buddha teaches that too. The discipline of practice is not the end. It is necessary, but we as human tend to fetishise and ritualise as a matter of course from ignorance and make it all about that and miss the underlying truth.
Think about the word self-realisation. Realisation– becoming aware - not creation – making something. Realisation is an internal process of getting connected to something, not something externally imposed, nor a product you can buy. Ultimately it is experiential, beyond what is rational and empirical and tangible. It defies that.
So, then, all we have to do is let go of conditioning and be open to feeling and realising what is true in ourselves because everything we actually need in order for us to be as intended is all there within. Simples! Lol.
Easier than you may think. Just let go. John Kabat-Zinn says “instead of “let it go” we should probably say “let it be””. (Cue the music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra3rF4b6O3E). One of my faves as it happens.) Because letting go still carries an element of judgment and control that interferes with actual awareness of self and truth and feeling as it is arising in that moment, still risks a turning away from rather than a coming round to a state of realisation. The point is not to deny feeling this way or that, or try to discard or avoid it, but to accept it and without any idea of an outcome or purpose. Just for the sake of it. Thich Naht Hanh, of course, also writes some wonderful stuff about all of this and I am a big fan of Tara Brach who gives wonderful teachings on these issues too.
I’ve had to let go of one or two things recently and frankly the emotional backlash is distressing, but there’s a huge sense of relief and compassion for myself and the other person involved in amongst the loss and grief and sadness too. Sitting with the feelings has helped me realise that. I’ll see what happens and ride it out because it’s honest and it’s not my job to be in charge of what happens next. I simply have to be honest with myself and go with that moment-to-moment. In my experience, if not always immediately or in expected ways or ways I understand, only good things have come from getting more honest and intimate with myself.
See you on the mat! Namaste.
"Just to improve the physical health is not enough. The mental health must also improve, the nature must change, the personality must change, the psychological and the psychic framework also has to change."