5 “Yoga Clichés” Or… Universal Thruths

540475_10151278793012939_95530038_n-polaRecently I came across an article on elephantjournal.com titled Yoga Clichés That Must Die (you can read it here), where the author talks about 8 phrases (supposedly) commonly used in the yoga world.

Reading the article I realized that I in fact very often use 5 of them (see below) and it has indeed happened a few times, that people would respond “Well, yeah, sure, this sounds nice… in theory. But could you please give me some real advice now?”

You see, I actually do believe in these phrases, I repeat them to myself and strive to live by them. Which, honestly, is not always easy, I would say it is a lifetime practice, a journey.

So let’s see:

1. “Listen to your body.” 

Have you ever noticed, how you start to get sleepy, when it gets dark, how you feel heavy and lethargic after eating too much sugary, processed or fatty food and how light and energetic you feel after eating fresh, non-processed food? Or remember the times, when you have been pushing yourself too hard, and then you got sick? Your body was trying to tell you something – go to sleep, give me fresh food, take a rest.

The body, mind and spirit are connected, but through life most of us have been thought to disconnect (from) them, to build barriers, to shut them up. We got so used to ignoring what our body is telling us, that we cannot hear it any more, even though we would like to. Or at least that is what we think.

The truth is we can establish and strengthen the connection again. How? By taking time, by being still and in silence. Here is something everyone can try: when you go buy or prepare food, try to relax and feel/see what kind of food you are drawn to. Experiment with how your body reacts to different foods when you pass by them in the supermarket or in your pantry, or after you eat them. How do you feel? Does your heart start racing, do you feel heavy, sleepy, nourished, light, peaceful? Observe yourself, your body always has messages for you. In the beginning they will probably be very subtle, but in time, they will get louder and clearer.

2. “Listen to the Guru Within.”

Already the ancient master, author of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu has said:

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”

If you think about it, we are constantly looking for answers outside, searching for something that would make us feel good/better – gathering stuff, eating when we are not hungry, looking for that special person that will bring us eternal happiness. But does it really ever work? What I mean is – do any of these things bring you lasting peace?

On the other hand, when you dive within and explore yourself, face your fears and start releasing them, take responsibility for your actions and reactions… That is when you discover a more permanent, stable peace and happiness. You discover yourself.

Again, this is not an easy one. Being honest with yourself is not simple, it takes time, practice and perseverance, it requires self-acceptance. This too is a process, a journey.

Something to try: sit down somewhere, where you feel peaceful, possibly in nature. Just sit, breathe and relax. Is there a decision you need to make, but you are not sure of what it is yet? Ask yourself the question and then let it go. Observe, don’t force anything. Remember, the answer might come in a very subtle way in the beginning, but the more you connect to your inner self, the clearer the voice will become.

3. “Just breathe.”

Already the ancient yoga masters stressed the importance of breath. T. Krishnamacharya (often referred to as the father of modern yoga) had sad:

“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.”

“Inhale, and God approaches you.  Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.  Exhale, and you approach God.  Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”

The practice of breathing exercises (pranayama) is one of the eight limbs of Yoga, as described by the great Indian sage Patañjali in the Yoga Sutra, deemed one of the most significant and ancient texts of yoga.

Not only is it true, that your breath is shallow and short when you are upset or scared, but it works the other way round too. When you are feeling uneasy try to pause, become aware of your breath and consciously lengthen and slow it down. Focus on it.

It can be very challenging at times, but by controlling the breath, you take charge of your mind, you bring your attention back to the present moment, away from the emotion that shook you. And you also fill your body with fresh prana (life energy).

4. “Surrender.”

Another tricky, but important one. In the Bhagavad Gita, part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, which was written down in the period from 540 to 300 b.c., you can read:

“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.”

When we let go of our expectations towards ourselves and others and detach ourselves from the results of our efforts, we start living in the present moment. It doesn’t mean that we reject all action, it just means, that we accept ourselves and others exactly as we are and we trust, that we will be able to deal with whatever comes next. This surrender indeed brings us peace, because we realize, that we are enough, that doing our best, whatever it is in that moment, is enough.

This also takes practice and perseverance, but is most definitely worth it.

5. “Set your intent(ion).”

For this one I will borrow the words from Carlos Castaneda:

“In the universe there is an immeasurable, indescribable force which shamans call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link.”

“Intent is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. Intent is what can make a man succeed when his thoughts tell him that he is defeated. It operates independent of any warrior’s indulgence. Intent is what makes him invulnerable. Intent is what sends a shaman through a wall, through space, to infinity.”

To be honest I am not yet able to explain (yet) how intent is formed. To me it feels like something spontaneous that arises from deep within, from a pure me, from a deep truth within myself. It is a force much stronger than just you or me, it is like the whole universe has your back.

Despite what I just said, I do believe that setting an intention helps. Intention is also a driving force, that focuses our attention on something and thus guides our actions.

To conclude, for me these 5 statements are no clichés, they are deep universal truths, that were acknowledged long ago by ancient masters, religions, thinkers, artists… And we are blessed to have them as inspirations. But they are not magic formulas that will solve all our problems in a snap. We need to apply them in our life, experience how they feel and in time practice them even in the most challenging situations. Where they will lead us, is then for each of us to see.

I would love to hear your thoughts – what is your experience with these “classical 5 yoga statements”?

Have an inspiring day! 🙂

Blessings,

Maja

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