“…and I know no matter what the waitress brings, I shall drink in and always be full/
yeah, I will drink in and always be full,” John Popper. (“Runaround,” Blues Traveler)
In Yoga-with-a-big-y, we study the Yamas and Niyamas. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that these concepts, or paths for “right living,” get a lot of airtime here at Bendy and the Beat. If you’re new here, welcome! As my Mom says: “have fun, be careful.” I’d love to hear your comments if you’d like to share.
One of the Niyamas, aka observances (or your do’s, if you will,) is Santosha, or contentment. If we can think about the “waitress” as life, it makes sense to try and practice contentment with whatever comes our way. Not to say that we are complacent, and slump in our chairs like Eeyore, only to lament: “it is what it is,” and sigh bigly, lips flappin’. Contentment is more of an okay-ness with things in their current state, until we can take action. Actually, the okay-ness remains, hopefully. Whatever you think is wrong with you, or broken, got you to this point. We strive for contentment, and perhaps, then and only then, to make changes. Humans are amazing! We can hold contradictory thoughts At. The. Same. Time.
“oh, sure the banner may be torn and the wind’s gotten colder/
perhaps I’ve grown a little cynical.
But I know no matter what the waitress brings/
I shall drink in and always be full/
Yeah, I will drink in and always be full.”
Life will knock you around sometimes. Waitresses bring oversalted, cold, soggy fries. (Hashtag first-world problems.) You may *always* get stuck at that red light. (Hello, confirmation bias!) You may break up with someone, or be broken up with. You may break a bone, a lease, a heart. You may feel a lil’ worse for wear. A dash of cynicism is probably okay. A deluge, not so much. But what do we doooooo about it?
Svadhyaya, or self-study, will allow us to pause and breathe, before taking action. We’re looking to access a steady state, like in the yoga posture Samasthiti, sometimes called Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. It’s effortless-effort. Whoa, Nelly! The posture looks like this, at least in theory: (Of course, your results may vary since most of us aren’t 12-year-old-boys.) Your feet are parallel, grounded as best you can, joints stacked (ankles, knees, hips and shoulders) without locking any of them. Arms are loose-ish at your sides. Perhaps thumbs rotate back, pinkies forward, palms open, shoulders back, down and open. Sternum proudly angled towards the sky. (Ha! Who played “Twister” as a kid??? Talk about contradictory idears…) Drishti, or Gaze, is steady at a far-off point on the horizon in the distance. It may look like nothing, but I’ve been in class where the teacher takes 5-10 minutes to get us into position. It’s woik!
In class, or off the mat, it is paramount, if not life-saving (it’s for sure life-altering) that we cultivate this Samasthiti, this steadiness, this steadfastness, this ease of effortless effort. Stress’ll kill ya! Have you ever seen ducks on a pond? They totes look like they’re just chillin’, floating there in the water. However, if you look beneath the surface, they’re peddling like mad to appppeeear in that steady, steadfast way. There’s a lot going on behind the curtain, uh, under the water, ‘natch. Being effortless takes work!
Remember that one goal is to take our Yoga/yoga “off the mat.” How can we apply this to the real world?
Another of the 8 limbs of Yoga-with-a-capital-y is Asana, or steady, relaxed posture. This is the “yoga” that most Westerners know and love. You go to class at the gym, an ashram, a local park, or perhaps only to your living room in your jammies, pretzel or put your body into shapes, then lie down for Savasana (the best and most important part, I dare say). This is in no way belittling that branch, this oversimplification, but it’s just that: a branch, one branch. There are 7 others to play with and explore.
One thing many of my students seem to enjoy during class is balance postures. My goal is to take students off balance sometimes, but bring them back to home base. It’s always done with consent, in a safe and gradual manner, with options and props offered. In class it can be literal – we balance on one foot & “go surfing,” whereby we pivot the lifted leg around in all directions to mimic being on the water. The arms can come along for the ride. The standing leg is the above-the-water-duck, and the lifted leg, arms, etc., the “rest” of you, are the legs of the duck, peddling like mad to keep you on that one leg, upright and rooted to the earth. This allows us to explore safely but also remain connected to home, hOMe, to know where home even is. Waitresses sometimes bring the wrong order, or give you someone else’s. Such is life, amirite? This causes some of us to go balliiiiistic. (Why?! More on that later.) Plus, playing in this way is fun!
This may also be figurative, in which case when we revisit a posture on the 2nd side, and the sequence, arrival method, or arms are different. We always come back home, to our Mountain Pose. The point is that we use our Drishti, or gaze, as a single point to help us focus, and remain balanced, steady, steadfast, still(ish). Stare at something that isn’t moving to hold you steady. Effortless effort. Samasthiti. Come Home.
“It seems my ship still stands on matter what you drop/
And there ain’t a whole lot that you can do”
Your Yoga is happening a lot and often, if not 24/7 like the diner’s open. How can we cope with big stuff, little stuff, stuff-stuff? We have tools! We have the Yamas and Niyamas, we have our breath, we may have meditation, self-study, and there’s always Ishvara Pranidhana, or surrender to the divine, if all else fails. Once you have cultivated all these wondrous things, the hard part’s over, right? Right? Right?! Bueller…nope, although it might be different, some say maintenance is where the real work happens. This is where Brahacharya, or conservation of energy, comes in. Let go of your duck-ness and put effort only where needed. But, where is that? Wah! Another blog post, perhaps…”I still can see things hopefully.” Remember, these are all practices, not perfects. Do what you can with what you’ve been given. Reach out for support when needed.
If this resonated with you, please feel free to comment below or drop me an email. Until our mats unfurl again, be well.