We each have many reasons why we practice yoga. But the deepest, most powerful benefit of yoga is explained beautifully by Judith Hanson Lasater in this quote:
When carving stone, the sculptor removes everything that is not the statue… The art of revealing beauty lies in removing what conceals it. So, too, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras tell us that wholeness exists within us. Our work is to chisel away at everything that is not essence, not Self.
Yoga could be thought of as the poses that we practice or it could be seen as a path to ending suffering — our own suffering and the suffering of others. I don’t know about you, but I think the latter is a much more valuable and meaningful practice to explore.
Yoga gives us 10 virtues or ethical guidelines (in the form of the yamas and niyamas) that we can use as tools or practices on our path to ending suffering. One of these is santosha, which translates to contentment.
Avoiding Suffering by Breaking Samskaras
Those of you who have been practicing with me for a while know that I believe yoga is a practice of developing self-awareness. Through the practice of yoga, we cultivate the ability to see ourselves more clearly. We slowly begin to uncover and understand our habits of behavior and patterns of thinking. In yogic philosophy, these patterns and habits are called samskaras.
Everything we do — every action we take, move we make, thought we think — leaves an impression, a samskara, on our minds and bodies. As yoga teacher David Yglesias puts it:
“Samskaras are like ruts on a muddy road. The more the wheel travels over them, the deeper the groove gets and the harder it is for the wheel, like our emotional tendencies, to break free from them.”
A Shift in Focus
Summer is coming to an end and so is my energy... Which means it's time to refocus and set some priorities! I've decided to cut back on my studio classes to focus on private lessons and yoga at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto (where I currently volunteer as an assistant in their yoga classes and will be joining the teaching staff soon).
First, the bad news
I will no longer be teaching at Worlds Yoga Milpitas (beginning next week) or Blue Iris Studio (beginning in October). I have enjoyed working with all the students and staff of these studios! Please keep in touch and swing by my classes at Avalon in Palo Alto if you have a chance.