Ashtanga Workshop #2: Intermediate Series

ashtanga yoga workshop #2 with Elliot

What a great day for yoga on Saturday afternoon, it

was so much fun to share the Ashtanga yoga workshop on the Primary Series, or Mysore style of yoga practice with my friends in the East Wind community a little over two weeks ago. The Ashtanga yoga series workshop was difficult and taxing, but the participants were all warriors! Everyone who showed up got a great series of postures in which to practice their breath control and challenge their bodies and we got to have some fun chanting and challenging our minds and bodies.

The Second Workshop is on 3/3 in Auburn

In this Second Ashtanga Workshop, we will be practicing the first 11 postures of the Ashtanga Intermediate Series:

  1. Pasana
  2. Krounchasana
  3. Salabhasana A&B
  4. Bhekasana
  5. Danurasana
  6. Parsva Danurasana
  7. Ustrasana
  8. Laguvajrasana
  9. Kapotanasana A & B

Ashtanga Yoga Workshop #2 will also focus on advanced seated postures and modifications to help the body to find the stretch that the asana implies.

 

The Ashtanga Yoga Workshop will last 2 hours, but we will start to practice for longer if we all want to. Drop-backs might happen in this workshop, so get ready for some hands on backbends and handstands!

In the Second Ashtanga Yoga Workshop, we get to have some fun practicing advanced postures! Please ensure that you check your ego at the door to avoid any injuries and to optimally enjoy the difficulty of this practice ūüėČ

Sign-Up for the Second Series Ashtanga Workshop Below:

You can also simply email me ([email protected]) to sign-up.

Nadi Shodana or the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga has a total of about 40 postures

Second Series: by Dr. Ron Steiner

I have included some links to the postures so you can reference them before the workshop begins. We will be doing the same chaturanga basics and flow basics at the beginning of the workshop because working on alignment is a constant in the yoga practice to maintain the integrity of the postures. Get ready for some fun!

 

5 Reasons I Don’t Practice Ashtanga Everyday

http://ashtangayogaathens.com/2014/08/healing-injuries-with-ashtanga-yoga/

I still practice Ashtanga.

Just not every day. I practiced every day while I was in India up until 3 months ago and when I began to travel. However, I stopped practicing every day and have gone back to a more diverse practice of general Hatha poses. But there are some major reasons why I stopped practicing Ashtanga every day and starting practicing it more like twice a week. You should know them

  1. Muscle mechanics –¬†Muscles are designed to handle unforeseen obstacles, in fact they perform extremely well in a diverse landscape and require different types of movements than only the poses of the primary series to functioning optimally. We are not meant to walk on treadmills, we are meant to climb hills and rocks, ice and mountains. There are fundamental movements that are missing from Pattabhi Jois‘ method, originally prescribed by Krishnamacharya. Low lunges, certain types of sitting, abdominal exercises, and back lengthening are all missing from Krishnamacharya’s sequences, likely because they were as necessary in the lifestyles of young Indians at the time. With modern science, especially in the fields of anatomy and physiology, we can structure other exercises to compliment the poses of the primary series to make our practice of the old method more efficient.
  2. Injuries – It’s easy to get injured while practicing Ashtanga, especially while practicing every day. Some studies have posted numbers as high as 60% of people who practice Ashtanga get injured and I would be willing to bet a lot of the injuries are knees, ankles, and toes. When you practice the same routine every single day it is easy to become somewhat mindless in the practice and to allow things to move on autopilot. This is not necessarily very good for your muscles either because they get used to the same movements and over time try to create shortcuts. Muscle confusion is a good remedy for this.
  3. Sense of Progress РAshtanga give the practitioner a false sense of progress every day. You become efficient and masterful at certain asanas while forgetting others and focusing on a non-existent path in Ashtanga. The path is the same whether you practice Ashtanga or not and being able to perform yoga poses should only lead to a sense of internal triumph, rather than comparative progress. Where is yoga taking you anyways?
  4. Time –¬†Yoga is a huge time commitment. Ashtanga is oftentimes an even bigger one, with full sequencing and the need to warm up and prepare mentally. I like to take 2 hours to practice Ashtanga, it gives me plenty of time for headstand and the closing sequences and I don’t feel rushed. Did I mentioned I spent 10 breaths in a lot of poses?
  5. Variation is beautiful РWhy practice only one style of yoga? We are born into an age with seemingly limitless traditions and styles to draw from, we should take advantage of this. Incredibly skilled teachers also seem to be popping out like daisies so take advantage while you can!

I also do other forms of exercises, like running, and climbing, hiking, and generally spend a lot of time outside. You should switch it up every once in a while, your body will love you for it!

 

See a few more articles about Ashtanga here:

  1. Is Ashtanga Dangerous?
  2. Injury Rates in 2008 (fishy…)
  3. Elephant Journal Drama
  4. Daily Ashtangi
  5. Ashtanga Injuries

Adjusting Ashtanga

Ashtanga_Advanced_Series

I am a huge fan of the Ashtanga practice. The intensity, the discipline, the mindlessness, and the routine of the sequential practice makes it like a second home for me. I always know that there are mornings where I can wake up and work without thinking, push myself without thinking of how, breathing without having to plan for a destination. But there are some problems with practicing the Ashtanga practice exclusively.

The Ashtanga¬†series were a prescription for Krishnamacharya’s Indian students, namely his most famous student Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya made them specifically for 15-year-old Indian men that were training for hours each day and that didn’t have previous injuries, or probably a lot of other sports and exercise experience.

This means that Krishnamacharya had a specific purpose in creating this sequences for young and fit Indian men and that the sequence is optimized for the Indian skeleton and definitely not for the other types of human skeletons. This becomes especially apparent when westerners begin trying lotus pose, Kukkutasana, and the Marichyasanas.

So there comes a point when one starts to realize that certain poses simply aren’t good for their body. This is half-bound lotus pose for me. The reason is that my knees are simply not strong enough to stretch my hips as deeply as the stretch requires, even though my hips are very open and I have good alignment. At a certain point, we have to realize that the body is mechanical; it has very real limitations that you will sooner or later be coming into increased contact with.

In my first two weeks, I was injured in the Ashtanga sequence. Marichyasana B, I can remember the stress of feeling injured like it was yesterday, my lateral collateral ligament snapped and I heard a very audible pop while I was in the full pose with the bind. I quickly got out of the pose and finished my sequence, then went home to look up some rehab exercises for my knee. It took a couple of days of exercises and taking it easy to let my knee heal. Not a fun few days while I was healing.

I continued my full practice for the rest of the time in India, making adjustments and skipping poses when it felt right. I did some extra work to make sure my knee was stable and working properly and avoided walking too much to make sure that the joint was getting less stress. Slowly full lotus opened up for me while I was rehabilitating my knee, though there is still quite a bit of space left to create in my hips. The injury forced me to be more conscious of what I was doing, to not accept things as they were explained, in black and white.

What is the point of that story? Every body is unique, so how can one series work for everyone’s skeleton? It can’t.

I think that there are parts of the Ashtanga sequence that are almost perfect in their ideal succession, mainly the standing series of the primary series. There is something especially cleansing about doing the poses in that order, and the inversions at the end are simply magical.

Sunday, I taught my first class back in the states. It was great, it was easy to forget how much I love teaching yoga until I was in the room again with all the wheels turning. It was a hybrid style so we warmed up slowly, with a bit of flow including some low lunges complete with back-bends, and even an extended child’s pose. Then we moved into standing postures and the full Sun Salutation B sequence, holding warrior 1 for less and less time and getting into the full back-bend in upward dog. Then we moved into the entirety of the¬†Ashtanga¬†practice. Instead of doing floor stretches, we did a bunch of ab work and then moved into some final yin-type stretches. I loved teaching the sequence and it felt right for the class; music was slow and complimentary more than anything else.

So if you come to my classes, except a little flair of¬†Ashtanga. It’s evolving into something pretty cool and I think that someday soon I might help to develop a new series based on the Primary Series. It’s all an evolution ūüôā

Day 48 of Ashtanga Practice (Last Day)

Mysore_electricity

My last day of practicing yoga with Saraswathi Jois was on Tuesday, but I am very happy to continue moving. I am very happy with how the trip and Saraswathi have added to my practice, though it definitely evolved much differently than I expected.

Ashtanga can be grueling at time. I think this is one of the reasons that it is so liberating; challenge makes us feel comfortable where we might not have before. I missed one morning practice because I was late (I drank beer…) and practiced myself in my room. This was one of the times when I really started to realize that I am ready to teach and am not just a student anymore. Even my arrival in Saraswathi’s class was a bit weird because my practice is very unique.

A few poses have developed significantly since I arrived; I now have a full lotus pose (always working deeper into my hips with careful attention to my overused knees), the Maricyasanas, Supta Kurmasana and I can jump through with crossed legs now. In some ways, I am very happy to progress, but at the same time I realize how unimportant my physical progress is. After all, my body will one day die and decay and no longer exist. At the same time, its fun to move through new poses, deeper variations, and I will tell you that Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana have made permanent changes to the way that I practice.

In modern yoga, there is too much emphasis placed on the sequencing of postures rather than focusing on cueing people deeper into postures. Even Ashtanga yoga can be too focused on the sequences (getting it done, rather than enjoying it) instead of the feeling of the breath moving through your body. This, in my opinion, is why yoga was invented; to increase¬†your sensitivity to the life-force energy of breath so that you can better regulate the fluctuations of your mind. The first time I went into Supta Kurmasana, I felt like I had just placed in a prison cell full of water with barely any air to breath. It was a dark, lonely, and crushing place; if you have ever seen someone do the stretch, you can probably imagine why, but I think this first one was particularly crushing, therefore liberating for me. I won’t forget what I gleaned from those eight breaths or so in the posture; it all passes, it all changes, no matter how shitty it might be. It will change. No matter how good it can be, it will change. Just be cool and go with the flow.

I am now in Kathmandu and am so happy to have experienced India in the way that I did. Saraswathi was amazingly accommodating, very genial, and a little flexible to my unique yoga practice. I will miss practicing with her and in the shala with all of the other incredible Ashtanga yogis that wake up at the break of dawn to feel their breath coming and going.

I am thinner, lighter, and happier than when I came. Things are good, even though I was sick for a little while with food poisoning. I guess we can call the trip a success! I am very excited to come back and continue teaching and looking forward to teaching when I get back.

Ashtanga Yoga and Yoga’s Modern Lineage

ashtanga yoga creator Krishnamacharya
What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga yoga sequences are a tradition expounded by Pattabhi Jois and is currently taught by teachers in different forms across the world. It is most likely that these sequences were originally created by Krishnamacharya for Pattabhi Jois, using knowledge he obtained from his guru, Brahmachari for short, who lived in a cave with his family in isolation. Krishnamacharya created the sequence for Pattabhi Jois who claimed that the yoga koruntha (which explained the yoga system) was written on a palm leaf that was eaten by ants. This tradition was passed orally from Krishnamacharya to Jois and Iyengar, and Jois used it to create the Ashtanga system. The existence of the document is questioned and although Jois claims to be Iyengar’s appointed guru, Iyengar claims no such relationship. The modern lineage of yoga is an incredibly interesting a complex series of relationships and history.

 Here is the known lineage of the originators of Ashtanga Yoga:

Students of Pattabhi Jois include Bryan Kest, Iyengar, Larry Schultz, Richard Freeman, and Chuck Miller. BKS Iyengar was a student, but they were in disagreement whether Pattabhi was his appointed guru. Both were called Guruji.

The Ashtanga yoga lineage has expounded yoga into the west, but its traditional original can be questioned. Many of the exercises seem extremely gymnastic to be so ancient and many people discuss where the influence of the postures and sequence really come from. However, one thing is certain; Surya namaskar

krishnamacharyas yoga school in Mysore
Ashtanga Yoga School of Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India

is an incredible movement pattern that is excellent for your body’s health if properly aligned. There are also transitions in the ashtanga series that create incredible concentration and focus, but it is certainly true that no series is perfect for every skeleton. Ashtanga yoga, while exemplary, is no exception to that rule.

Balancing the intense yang posture of Ashtanga with Yin postures that counterbalance the spinal twists and shoulder openers of the primary series is completely necessary to progress properly in the primary series. This requires responsibility over your own body. The combination is powerful and relatively unexplored, but there is no reason to spent only 5 breaths in each pose and to continue to practice the exact same way, without variation.  I think that the pattern of 5 breaths for many movements is great, but some poses can be held for much longer and indeed have expanded benefits from being held.

Yoga is not a religion. There are no rules. Attempts at trying to organize it are a joke. It is a system for learning about the self and the limitations and delusions of consciousness. Rules in regard to yoga are silly, because at its best it needs to be completely personalized. Therefore its leaders are simply the people with the most experience in the field through their own practice and assisting the practices of others. This is why it takes so long to become a true guru.

ashtanga yoga designer Krishnamacharya
ashtanga yoga designer Krishnamacharya

I think it is important to realize that yoga has been passed father to son in many generations before a system like Krishnamacharyas was expounded and spread to the West. He even spent many years in poverty teaching before befriending the Maharaja and gaining the raja’s patronage for his yoga shala. It’s popularity was in decline up until this point, but Krishnamacharya would make demonstrations on his days off work, and would eventually travel with his students to demonstrate asana, then send students to become teachers in other cities. Jois and Iyengar were two of these students and both learned different lessons from Krishnamacharya because they studied with him at different times in his life.

To think you have to practice with a certain guru is silly. To think you “have” to practice Ashtanga is silly. The energy of India is great, but the primary series is the same no matter where you do it. Ashtanga yoga should absolutely be supplemented with other activities. The tradition of Pattabhi Jois is continued by his daughter, Saraswathi Jois and his grandson, Sharath Jois, both studied under his guideance in the same sequence as all other practitioners. Both

Ashtanga Yoga Propogators K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois
Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois

are currently teaching in Gokulam, Mysore¬†(links to when I went). It is interesting to know where styles of yoga come from, so you may want to continue by reading Krishnamacharya’s, Pattabhi Jois’, and Iyengar’s books about yoga. Iyegnar’s book is particularly interesting, though Krishnamacharya are much more detailed in interesting ways and somewhat cryptic and mysterious. Krishnamacharya’s guru, Ramamohana Brahmachari and Krishnamacharya are the only ones that we can credit with the creation of modern yoga, though it many poses from the¬†Hatha Yoga Pradipika are much older, such as¬†shoulder stand/sarvangasana, headstand/sirsasana, sun salutations, spinal twists, and lotus poses ¬†They all make for very fun and interesting reads, I’m sure. Many are available online, I’ve found a bunch by searching in Wikipedia.

Modern Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Shala –

The K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Research Institute in Mysore, India http://kpjayi.org/

 

The Responsibility of Ashtanga

Ganesha Temple, Gokulam

I love being able to learn yoga from multiple sources, multiple teachers with subjective and unique viewpoints. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I have been able to progress through various yoga traditions without injury.

Lots of the yogis here are injured, in one form or fashion. I’ve seen taped toes, adjustments, heard about knee tears, ankle injuries, wrist pain. This is the pitfall of advanced practice, injury is more prevalent when you are exhausted, too tired to breath, or simply disconnected from your body. I notice this almost exclusively with my breath, it is what guides my practice.

Using breathe to guide practice is the only way. I am extremely fortunate to have learned this from Rusty Wells, Bryan Kest, and many of my other teachers before arriving here. It is how I stay sensitive to the soft spots in my body, the places that are not normally touched. It is how I open my hips, by drawing my breath deep down into my abdomen and activating my lower abdominals to twist, open, and externally rotate. I can feel what is too much, or not enough because I am in tune with the fluctuations of my body. Each exhale is pushed out with ease and each inhale fills my torso and lengthens my spine. When there is too much pain, I can feel it is too much, but when it is good pain, I can breath through it, feel my body opening and making space for less. The power of the primary series and the Ashtanga practice is undeniable, no matter which series or whatever you are on.

I can’t imagine doing Ashtanga then resting for the rest of the day. I walk heavily and practice Yin, as well as static Hatha style poses to compliment the imbalance of the primary series (there is no doubt that it is powerful, but it is not necessarily optimal for a 25-year-old. Why? My knees need to be strengthened simultaneously, my hips need to be stabilized, and my mind needs the softness of moving slow. Forwards folds, child’s pose, lunges, Baddha Konasanas, happy babies, goddess poses, half pigeons, and cow-faced pose are all a part of my practice outside of the studio and they are absolutely allowing me to go deeper, faster, but honestly I don’t care about where I am in the series anymore.

Over the past week, I have talked to many people about the politics of the Jois Shala. Of course there are politics, these are humans we are talking about; however, it does seem that there is a certain mindlessness about the Shala. My personal observation is that the art is quite as respected as it once was and it now mass-produced so that everyone can experience the Jois Shala. Apparently, this morning there was fighting at the gate to get into the Shala because people wait outside for hours before the class starts to get a good spot. So it’s a lot like the freeways in America now.

I always remember Rusty saying, “try not to act like you are the only one.” And its true, there are more people in the world right now than there ever has been, so we all need to act accordingly.

Last night, I met a man from Israel whose name I can’t remember, but he practiced with Patthabi Jois and we got into a lively conversation about the ego and what series you are on and what yoga is truly about. Happiness. He said he had met zen Buddhists that had never even practiced yoga and were the happiest men he had ever met. We also talked about how silly it was that the primary series is the point of focus for the Ashtanga tradition, because it is an anatomically imbalanced sequence that was designed for Patthabi Jois as a young teen by Krishnamacharya. He assured me that the sequence is not important and I can’t agree more. But by the same token, I didn’t necessarily come to India to learn the primary series, I came to India to deepen my Samadhi, my mindfulness, and to detach from the world of my birth. To meet people as a fresh unknown person, to learn more about myself, my tendencies, and most importantly, my flaws and strengths. And maybe, somewhere along the way I can find this thing that some call Nirvana, others call Samadhi, and most refer to as god.

The day before, I met someone who had only great things to say about Saraswathi. So far, she has done a great job with being personal, telling me what to do, and letting my practice my own yoga. on day 2 she told me to do head stand and I was very happy to do some inversions. Her assists have been great too, we got the point where I was bound in half-lotus, but there was too much pain and she let me adjust in the way I needed to adjust. That said, my lotus hip openings are moving along very well here because of the repetition of the primary series. You are welcome to your own opinion, but I believe that the physical body is something that contributes greatly to our mental state, especially the openness, flexibility, and strength of joints and limbs. I mean, 90% of the happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin, is in your gut. The body certainly is the overarching reason why we feel the way that we do, because the body is a system and the mind is what allows us to operate the body in the ways that are available to us. So by opening the body, I believe I am opening my mind.

I realize this may contribute to a sense of having to be somewhere, like there is a destination besides your current location, but the opening process is enlightening in and of itself. I am trying to focus my mind on gratitude for each day’s new sensations, new aches, new pains that I move through. And my Samadhi continues to deepen so I will continue to strive along the path that I have found. But I want to try to enjoy each step of the path, rather than just the major destinations call asanas, or sequences, or series, or styles of yoga.

Tomorrow, I will practice the whole primary series and begin to embed it into my body. When I come back to my own practice in the Shala on Monday, I’ll see how far I can go on my own. I am excited to practice with everyone, I always love the group energy. Plus, the main Shala is really cool and decorated and I don’t get to spend much time in it.

Day 3 of Practicing Ashtanga in India

I woke up late this morning, but got to the shala at about 5:15. Saraswathi asked me to be there at 4:30, but she doesn’t care as long as I can find a space to practice.

I always start in child’s pose. Today I made a dedication, something I don’t normally do in my own practice. When I walk in to the Shala, this kind of trance comes over me, the breathing and ambient sounds are so soothing, so powerfully hypnotic. It’s hard not to find devotion amidst all of the hard work each yogi is putting into their practice and body.

I love the way that the practice moves inside. Every time I do the 10 Surya Namaskars (5 A, 5 B), I am exhausted afterwords. Every time, triangle poses feel like freedom. I can see why the primary series is structured the way that it is. Though it is definitely not a suitable practice for someone brand new to yoga. Even a few years could be rendered meaningless in the face of the sequence. Putting both feet behind your head is no easy task.

I only messed up one part before I came to the end of what Saraswathi has taught me. She allows me to practice on my own, make mistakes, then do it over with her guidance. It’s not that explicit, but that’s what is happening. She understands that I know a lot of yoga, but she respects the series enough to tell me to stop at certain points and I’m happy to do so. Today I received Ardha Bandha Paschimottanasana and Trianga Mukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana. Loved it. Half lotus is still very difficult for me, as I have extremely tight hips from football, rugby, and especially basketball. The lateral movement of defense really tightens hips to be able to move very quickly side to side and I am pretty sure this is the major culprit behind why it has taken so long for them to open up into external rotation. Plus, my ankles are weak from lots of sprains, which compounds the difficulty of moving into lotus postures.

I can grab my toe, but the pain in my ankle is just a bit much right now, so I do half-lotus without the bind. I finished trianga Mukha, then Saraswathi told me to go do Sirsasana.

For those of you who don’t know, I am passionate about being inverted and the mental effects of being upside down. I’m always a bit wary of head-stand, but it is time for me to step in and take the activation and full extension in the back of my neck and learn how my body wants to do Sirsasana. In other words, no more avoiding the pose for handstand. 10 breathes without Saraswathi, then she came and assisted me afterwards. I did the closing sequence, and called it a day.

I walked outside to the rising sun. It was beautiful and made me very happy. I had a coconut from the vendor outside of the Shala and enjoyed a 10 minute walk back to my room. Now I’m off to find some more Ayurvedic oils and maybe check out the zoo this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow. I have already bought oil that I want to talk about with you all, so make sure to look out for a post on Ayurveda in the near future.

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya means to follow Brahman. To seek supreme reality, self, and god. In this aspect, Brahmacharya is inherently Hindu. It also represents fidelity when married, simple living, and celibacy when unmarried. Brahmacharya is also taken more seriously by many ascetics, including being complete celibate and emphasizing chastity for obtaining moksha.

However, Brahmacharya is a concept that exists in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism for monastic life that includes complete celibacy and no marriage.

Brahman is the universal spirit of Hinduism, the “divinity” that is at the core of each being, but also represents absolute reality and the universal-self.

Charya is a word that means following conduct, following, engaging, and is usually translated as virtuous.

Together, these words form the concept of following dharma towards moksha, or liberation. This concepts form the 4th Yama in the Hindu tradition and one of Mahavira’s eight teachings. It is a concept that follows alongside dharma, providing guidelines to act upon.

Okay, so let’s adapt this concept to modern life. If you are acting in a divine way, you aren’t doing anything that doesn’t feel great to you, this can include whatever you want it to include. You avoid pain and suffering. Other people’s judgement of the lifestyle that you choose is irrelevant to your own happiness, so forget about what people think about how you live. You can do whatever you want or need to do to make yourself happy, as long as it doesn’t intrude upon the divinity of other people. Understanding that each being is divine and contains this magic spark of life and that they are free to express that in whatever that being chooses to is important to being able to express your divinity.

Obviously this can apply to a wide variety of things. Suburbs made of concrete and tar do not respect the divinity of the land they are on. The trees around the developments have to be implemented and instead of cultivating and terraforming in congruence with the growth of the land, it is chopped away and replaced and completely controlled. We are not respecting the divine nature of the self-sustaining natural ecosystem by replacing it with our structures and squares that aren’t made in conjunction with prosperity for the land that it is on.

It also applies to relationships. How often do you feel great after a one night stand? What kind of bonds do you want with the romances in your life? How is it that we always remember our freaking roommates?!? How can you possibly be happy living with another person? I think a lot of relationship things come down to compatibility. Can the two people stand each other while they change over time? Do they explore together, or drive around in circles separately? What do they want out of life? What are their values, or what do they consider important? All of these things have to be compatible, not necessarily the same. When you find someone who has values, habits, beliefs, etc. that are compatible with your own, you can feel a sense of overwhelming calm, as if it was meant to be. Sometimes you can forget what it was like before you knew that person. I think this is all a side-effect of the human condition, of our own divinity, if you will.

But anyways, what does that mean, compatibility? Hell if I know, but I think it means that you don’t over-react to each other, that you live in somewhat similar circumstances. Tolerance is key, but honestly, it sucks. Shared passions I think make the greatest compatibility.

Find someone else that is compatible really comes down to the search. How you go about looking for love. Friends can become great lovers. So can expedited friendships that immediately turn into relationships. No need to rush things, everyone is already thinking about sex way too much in this country. People tend to find each other when they are following their passions. A lot of times, this is at work. I think that understanding that the other being is divine is key to the core respect of the relationship, or at least understanding that they are the same as you in so many ways. Even if you don’t use the word divine, instead maybe “hypercomplex”, “ultrasmart”, “understanding”, etc. I think divine is a great word to describe human capacity and potential. It is the only word that really encapsulates the tremendous power of it all, of human existence.

After all, we are closer to the size of mountains than the size of atoms. We are not insignificant cosmically, especially the complex molecules of our bodies regulatory systems. Whether you believe in divinity, or nothing, I believe we are talking about the same thing.

You see, to believe there is nothing is to deny the sense and all prior experience. To believe in something is order with the way of the cosmos. So if we make the assumption that the cosmos is, then the next question, inevitably, is what is the source of the cosmos. The only possible answer to this, is the cosmos itself. So the universe is its own source. To believe that a god created this source is to lack accounting for the source of god. So Hindus believe that Brahmacharya is to act in accordance with the universal laws of dharma, or the universe. Celibacy is definitely not necessary to truly be immersed in Brahmacharya.

 

Aparigraha – the 5th Yama and 1st Limb of Yoga

aparigraha

Aparigraha | non-desire

Aparigraha is the concept of non-greed, or non-possessiveness from Jainism and the Raja/Ashtanga yoga traditions. This means limiting possessions to what is necessary or important to live. The five yamas are shared with Jainism in their sacred vows and Sadhus traditionally have very few, if any possessions.

The word literally means non-grasping and greedlessness. ‘A’ creates a contradiction or antonym in sanskrit, so parigraha means reaching out to take for one’s self. The idea behind the concept is to take no more than what is necessary. This includes refusing gifts.

Aparigraha creates detachment from material and worldly things. Strict Jains will completely renounce all property and social relations. But these extreme examples might be considered out of natural balance. Human contact and relations are healthy and necessary parts of life.

Renouncing material possessions is impossible in a consumer based society. So we have to work outside of the ideal, in the realities we face as a modern world. But understanding that excess can easily create suffering is an important concept. Acceptance of what you have been given is the most important lesson here.

The key is the amount of energy one expends on the taking, or accumulating possessions. Great examples of this are shoe collections, expensive super cars, and 13,000 square foot houses. The excess literally creates inconvenience, not to mention the attachment to a material and fleeting object. One can understand that these things likely do not contribute to happiness, but can easily take away from contentment; the addiction to needing more is an easy trap to fall into. Detachment from material possessions creates freedom. If you have seen ‘Fight Club’, you can understand how material possessions can slowly begin to take over your life. Take what you need, but understand that the idea of ‘more’ can be toxic.

Social interaction are also important to detach from, another main concept of aparigraha. It allows you to appreciate the intricacies of the interactions and to see the true nature of the relationship. The idea is to live in harmony with the people you are interacting with. Not attaching to particular conversations can be necessary in complex relationships. Being able to separate from others to see the truth in situations is extremely important to friendships, marriages, parenting, etc.

I will conclude that like all other things, aparigraha requires balance and should not be taken on with a full head of steam to lose all possessions and completely detach from the world forever. Instead, work the idea of having less into your life, maybe getting rid of a third car, or not being worried about the size of your television (although, big TVs are pretty awesome!). So take this concept, like all others, in moderation, especially at first.

It can be easier to detach from the world, rather than be accepting of it. This is the final piece of the puzzle, to be accepting of what you truly do need! This will vary from individual to individual, so comparing yourself to others is quite irrelevant for positivity of the concept to have an effect on you.