Comfort or Growth?
While yoga is often marketed as a “peaceful,” “relaxing,” activity it is truly a dynamic and radical practice of self-refinement and transformation. While yoga’s practices aim at the serenity of the mind, yoga recognizes that this serenity is the result of certain internal conditions, not external factors. The practice of yoga traditionally involves eight limbs, and is known as “Ashtanga Yoga.” Ashtanga Yoga contains practices that range from ethical, moral, and personal observances to the cultivation of states of consciousness that transcend physical reality (and even some of its “laws”) and blur the boundaries between oneself and the cosmos one inhabits.
Seen from this view, Ashtanga Yoga is less about seeking an experience of pleasure and comfort in ones body or surroundings, but rather about confronting and transforming the patterns of thought, action, and intention that cause one’s own inner disturbance. In other words, Ashtanga Yoga is about clearing away all blockages or impediments to Union with the Divine. A variety of principles and processes have evolved over the millennia to train the earnest seeker to attain such realization.
This Fall, Living Tradition Yoga cannot promise you a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Our classes will generally (with perhaps the exception of some parts our restorative yoga lesson weeks) not be an oasis of comfort and pleasure. We cannot suggest that coming to class will be a “break” where you enjoy some “me” time. Instead, what we will offer you is a chance to dismantle the compulsion to relentlessly seek pleasure and comfort (a pursuit that appears to have put the planet and its inhabitants under profound distress; in fact, the BBC reports that if everyone on the earth lived at the same level of comfort and consumption as the average American, we would need four earths). In fact, we will instead help you to dismantle the “me” with its endless needs. We will also offer you the opportunity to “Find Comfort in Discomfort,” to quote B.K.S. Iyengar. In our view, true freedom does not involve an absence of adversity, but the capacity to encounter adversity in a balanced and even-minded way. This is what we are out to practice at Living Tradition Yoga.
Of course, the development of equanimity is not an overnight matter. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, and the first to codify the concept of Ashtanga (Eight-Limbed) Yoga, said the practice of yoga must be pursued with relentless determination, faith, great vitality and enthusiasm. He also suggested this pursuit must take place over a long period of time, without faltering, and in the face of any and all obstacles. In light of this (humbling) requirement, a 14-week session seems a bit weak, but, as Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita declares, “no effort on the path of yoga is wasted.”
So what’s the point? It is simple. We assert that our time desperately needs people committed to actualizing the highest potential within themselves. Anyone who has ever achieved anything of substance in their lives (i.e. anyone who has actualized their potential) will tell you that it took a high level of determination and commitment, over the long term to attain to a goal. With yoga, the goal is nothing less than a human being free of all affliction, negativity, and distress. Such a human being innately imparts well-being and causes all life they touch to thrive. This Fall, of the year 2015, let us make fullest use of this gift of Ashtanga Yoga, and B.K.S. Iyengar’s eloquent and powerful teachings of it, to take strong and determined steps toward creating such human beings and igniting the process of making ourselves, community, the healthiest and most joyful ever. This is our mission and we invite you to share it with us.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga:
- Yama: Ethical disciplines (Includes: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-hoarding)
- Niyama: Individual disciplines or fixed observances (Includes: cleanliness or purity, contentment, austerity, self- and scriptural study, and surrender to God)
- Asana: Postures
- Pranayama: Regulated Breathing Practices
- Pratyahara: The withdrawal of the senses from the objects of their attraction
- Dharana: Concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Absorption of the Consciousness in the Self
Chris Briney and Living Tradition Yoga