Just like everything else, physical exercises are neither good nor bad. If it is being performed with some basic knowledge and understanding of how to perform the exercises with care and attentiveness, as well as without the influence of egoism and attachment, then it will bring benefits to the body and mind. If it is being done under the influence of egoism and attachment, without the basic knowledge and understanding, nor with care and attentiveness, then it might cause unnecessary tension, stress, damages or injuries to the body and mind.
At any stages in life from young to old, the physical body needs to be performing some forms of regular physical exercises to improve and maintain its good health and fitness level. The intensity of the exercises should be within the effort according to the physical condition and ability in that moment. Some forms of gentle exercises for about half an hour to an hour a day will be sufficient to achieve the benefits of physical exercises. Over exercising or performing strenuous physical exercises that is beyond the effort of the physical condition and ability in that moment can cause short term or long term damages or injuries to the physical body.
The body needs certain degrees of ‘stress’ to maintain its bone density and muscular strength. But excessive ‘stress’ that can cause over-stimulation to the entire body systems, energy depletion or over-exhaustion, and muscular tendons injuries, isn’t necessary. What’s the point when we try to make the body fitter and healthier, but being disappointed, or dissatisfied, or frustrated, or unhappy about oneself imposed by some negative judgment, comparison and expectation coming from oneself towards one’s physical condition and ability, or the physical performance and achievement.
Yoga is not a physical exercise as some people think it is. Yoga asana practice is one part of the many types of yoga practice. Yoga asana practice involves physical movements that will give the similar effects of performing any physical exercises. These effects of physical exercise that we attain from performing regular yoga asana practice is just a side-effect from the practice, it is not the goal of the practice.
Physical exercises don’t guarantee anyone to be peaceful and compassionate. But yoga, which is the mental exercises or internal observations, if being practiced with the correct understanding and attitude, can bring oneself to realize unconditional peace and compassion, that is undetermined by the physical conditions and abilities.
Yoga asana practice is like everything else, it is neither good nor bad. It has no quality nor intention to generate pleasantness or unpleasantness, positive effects or negative effects to the practitioner. Yoga asana practice being performed regularly without the influence of the egoism and attachment will bring oneself towards peace beside getting the physical and mental effects of physical exercises. If it is being done under the influence of the egoism and attachment, it might cause tension, stress, damages or injuries to one’s body and mind.
Although regular physical exercise doesn’t guarantee us to be free from ignorance and egoism, or be free from unhappiness and suffering, it can help us to develop higher energy level, strengthening the body systems, improve physical stamina, physical strength and flexibility, to lower the risk of incurring diseases and lower the risk of physical injuries, promote good health, alertness, positive thinking, cheerfulness, determination, perseverance and tolerance to deal with unexpected or undesirable situations that may arise in everyday life more efficiently and easily.
The effects of physical exercises are beneficial for both physical and mental health and fitness, to allow us to enjoy a better quality of life, to allow ourselves to have the good physical and mental condition, the clear thinking ability, the strength and mobility, and the higher energy level to perform selfless service for oneself and others. But no matter how much we try to maintain the good condition of this physical body, it is still subject to changes, decay, injury, pain, discomfort, stiffness, weakness, old age and decomposition.
Appreciate and take good care of this physical body as well as the mind, but without identification with the body and mind as who ‘I’ am, and without attachment towards the impermanent changes of the body and mind. Allow the impermanent changes to be what they are, without craving for particular conditions, nor aversion towards certain conditions. Make good use of the good condition of the body and mind that is available now, to be doing something beneficial for ourselves and for others, without identification with the actions and the fruit of actions, without attachment towards the actions or the fruit of actions.
There’s nothing wrong with performing the yoga asana exercises with proper alignment and adjustment from the teacher to gain maximum benefits, as well as to ensure maximum safety, or minimize the risk of injuries, in the standpoint for safe and effective physical exercise.
Yoga is about unconditional peace and compassion through the realization of the truth, free from ignorance, egoism, identification, attachment, craving and aversion, and all sorts of impurities. Yoga asana practice is one of the many ways to help to influence the state of the mind, prepare the mind for meditation.
Does it mean that when the students are able to perform the yoga asana exercises with the perfect correct alignment and with some adjustments from the teacher to make the postures as ‘good’, as ‘correct’, as ‘perfect’, as ‘graceful’, or as ‘beautiful’ as much as possible, then they will be peaceful and compassionate, and will be free from ignorance, egoism, identification and attachment? And if the students are not able to perform the yoga asana practice with the perfect correct alignment and don’t make any adjustments to make the postures as ‘good’, as ‘correct’, as ‘perfect’, as ‘graceful’, or as ‘beautiful’ as much as possible, then they will not be peaceful and compassionate, and won’t be free from ignorance, egoism, identification and attachment? Does everyone need to be able to go beyond certain degrees of flexibility to be able to see the truth?
No doubt that the body and mind will feel good when the body is able to do what we want to do, to achieve certain results that we want to achieve, but this is just some momentary satisfaction, pride and good feelings coming from gratifying the desires of craving and aversion, through getting the things that we like and want the way that we like it to be, and by not getting anything that we don’t like and don’t want. It is not the unconditional peace that is undetermined by the qualities of names and forms.
Yoga asana practice is nothing to do with perfect physical alignment, nor it’s about making the body to be more strong and flexible than it is now. It is also has nothing to do with adjusting the yoga asana poses until we think it is ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘perfect’, ‘graceful’, or ‘beautiful’ enough. Nor does yoga has anything to do with what kind of benefits that we are getting from performing all these yoga asana practice. The benefits will be there as they are as we perform our practice, but all these benefits cannot guarantee the practitioners to be free from ignorance and egoism, and realize unconditional peace and compassion. That’s why there might be people who practice yoga asana regularly for years, and getting all the benefits from the yoga asana practice, but they might still be disturbed, affected, influenced and determined by the qualities of names and forms, and have no peace. Some people may never perform any yoga asana exercises, not to say in perfect correct alignment, but they are peaceful and compassionate.
By giving some instructions about the ‘correct’ alignment, and making everyone in the class to be doing the yoga asana exercises in accordance to the ‘correct’ alignment has nothing to do with the realization of unconditional peace and compassion in the yoga practitioners. It is the teachings and practice of letting go of the egoism, attachment, identification, craving and aversion, and free from being affected or influenced by the past memories and the future anticipations or projections, free from judgment, comparison, expectation, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, feelings of hurt or guilt, agitation, depression, anxiety, doubt, fear and worry, that allow one to be peaceful and compasionate. One doesn’t need to be able to perform the yoga asana poses with the perfect correct alignment to achieve that.
Everyone has a different body with different physical limitations. Many of the perfect correct alignments are beyond the physical limitations of some people. It is not natural nor comfortable for some people to perform certain exercises in accordance to the perfect correct alignment, and thus unnecessary tension is generated in the mind, and injuries are generated in the physical body, when they try to do the exercises or poses to meet up the requirement for perfect correct alignment, and forcing their body to go beyond its limitations.
It’s about to go beyond all the qualities of names and forms, to realize attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness, and to go beyond all the identifications with the body and the mind, as well as the attachment towards all the qualities of names and forms to be who we are. It’s not about to go beyond the physical limitations, by challenging the physical body to be more strong and more flexible than it is now, and pushing the body to go beyond its limitations, generating unnecessary tension and injuries onto the body.
It is aware of the reality, and allow the reality to be what it is. It is accepting the physical condition and abilities in the present moment now as it is, without attachment nor identification with the physical condition and abilities to be who we are. Knowing that even this present condition and abilities of the physical body is impermanent and it will change, and allow all the impermanent changes to be what they are, from moment to moment.
Everyone just need to perform the exercises or poses at their own capacity and at their own ease, in accordance to their physical condition and abilities in the present moment now, without any judgment, comparison, expectation, craving and aversion. There’s no stress or tension generated in the mind, and there is minimal risk of injuries when they perform all the exercises in a relaxed manner and moving into the poses calmly and gently, without forcing the body to go beyond its limitations. Everyone might look differently from one another while doing the same type of exercises or poses, as they all have different flexibility and limitations. And it’s fine.
It’s about performing all our practice, actions, duties and responsibilities towards oneself and others out of compassion, without attachment towards the actions and the fruit of actions. There’s no expectation towards any benefits of the yoga asana practice, nor expectation towards the results or benefits of the yoga asana practice to be the way that we think it should be, but allow the results or the benefits to be there as they are.
May all be free through self-inquiry.
Due to some physical limitations, or injuries, or weakness, or stiffness, or diseases, some people might be limited from performing some of the yoga asanas.
It’s totally okay if someone cannot perform some or all of the yoga asanas. It doesn’t limit anyone to realize selflessness to be free from ignorance and egoism, and realize unconditional love and peace.
As selflessness, peace and compassion is not determined by how many yoga poses one can perform, nor how ‘good’ can one execute the yoga poses.
Everyone and anyone also can practice yoga and be free, but it is an undeniable fact that not all the yoga asana exercises are suitable for everyone, nor anybody should be performing all the yoga asanas disregards their physical limitations.
Yoga is not at all to push the body to go beyond its limitations, nor to make it stronger or more flexible, but it is to go beyond all the identifications with impermanent qualities of names and forms, and realize attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness.
One should be more calm and relaxed by performing the yoga asana exercises instead of feeling intimidated or frustrated by some of the yoga asana exercises that one couldn’t perform due to some physical limitations.
Yoga and its practice are not meant to be some kind of pleasurable sensual enjoyment such like paying some money for getting some service like spa treatments. It is a practice to develop dispassion or disinterest in pleasurable sensual enjoyment to let go of craving and aversion.
Yoga and meditation practice is a process to change the old habits of the mind that have been there deep rooted for a long time influencing the mind for as long as we live. It is stop giving what the mind likes and wants. It is calming the mind and stop stimulating the mind. It is quite unpleasant for the mind in the beginning of the yoga and meditation practice as it takes some time for the mind and the body to adjust, to adapt, or to get use to something that it wasn’t familiar with, or to develop interest in something that it never interested before. As well as it is unpleasant for the mind to be not having something that it was addicted to, or used to familiar with. It is about letting go of desires of wants and don’t wants. It is not about fulfilling the desires of wants and don’t wants. The mind will resist. The mind will want to runaway.
If our will-power is weak, we will give in to the desires of the mind, and give ourselves many reasons or excuses why we should not continue the yoga and meditation practice temporary or permanently, and instead we look for some other activities that the mind enjoys, likes and craves for, to make the mind feels pleasant, stimulated, or excited.
We often hear many ‘yoga’ enthusiasts say, “I love yoga. I want to practice yoga. Yoga makes me feel so good.” But then when they experience some discomforts or unpleasantness physically, mentally and emotionally, they want to runaway. They complain this is not the yoga that they were expecting, that the yoga and meditation practice is not the way that they think it should be. They say they only want yoga that will give them pleasant sensations and which is enjoyable. They don’t want yoga that doesn’t give them what they want and like. Be happy. In the end it is our own freedom for what we want for our life, and what we want to do with our body and mind. We take full responsibility for the consequences of our actions derived from our desires of wants and don’t wants.
In order to allow the physical body to be able to perform the yoga asana poses comfortably, our body and mind will have to go through some unpleasant purification process while developing the skills, stamina, strength, flexibility, patience, perseverance, determination, forbearance, tolerance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, concentration, non-attachment, non-identification, non-expectation, non-judgment, non-comparison, faith and courage to be able to perform and hold the yoga asana poses comfortably for a period of time effortlessly without struggling. And this will allow us to realize selflessness and compassion. It is not at all about how good we look and feel during and after the yoga asana practice, nor what type of benefits we are going to get from performing all these yoga asana poses.
Money cannot buy love, peace, compassion and wisdom. It takes some efforts, self-control, self-discipline, patience, perseverance, determination, will-power, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, for us to eliminate egoism, attachment, desires, greed, craving and aversion from the mind to be free from ignorance and impurities, and to realize unconditional love, peace, compassion and wisdom.
Greed is also associated with stinginess. It’s like, “If I can just pay as little money as possible and get as many things in return as possible, that would be very nice…”
Even highly intelligent or educated people might be influenced by stinginess and greed, and are not free.
Before we start practicing yoga, we need to learn to let go of stinginess and start to be generous.
If we cannot understand why we should let go of stinginess and be generous before we start to perform any yoga practice, we can never realize what is selflessness and compassion, even though we can be attending many yoga classes or yoga courses to learn and perform some forms of yoga practice, or if we have been practicing yoga asana for many years and our body has developed the skill, strength and flexibility to perform many yoga asana exercises beautifully in perfect alignment. All these qualities of names and forms have very little to do with what yoga really is.
“How long have you been practicing yoga?”
“How long have you been teaching yoga?”
“Where and whom did you learn yoga from?”
“Who is your yoga teacher or Guru?”
“What type of recognitions, certifications and qualifications do you have?”
“What type of yoga do you practice or teach?”
“What is the level of this yoga course or yoga class?”
“What type of certifications I can get from attending these yoga courses or classes?”
“What type of results or benefits I can get from attending this yoga course or yoga class?”
All these are the common questions coming from most people who want to practice yoga or to teach yoga. But yoga is nothing to do with all these names and forms…
Normally, when people are looking for a yoga school or yoga teacher to learn about yoga, or to do some yoga exercises, most of us will want to know the “professional profile” of the yoga school or the yoga teacher, to know what are the qualifications, certifications, affiliations, past experiences, achievements, types of courses, classes or services of the yoga school or the yoga teacher.
Same as when a yoga school or a yoga teacher wants to “promote” their classes or services, naturally, they want to have a “professional image”, and to give a “laudable”, “highly recommended”, “reliable”, “professional”, “expertise”, “highly experienced”, “outstanding”, “competent”, “recognized”, “affiliated”, “updated”, “distinctive”, or “beautiful” type of profile to show to the respective “clientele” or yoga enthusiasts who might be interested to take up yoga courses, yoga classes or yoga exercise classes at this yoga school or with this yoga teacher.
There is nothing wrong with this universal worldly idea and practice in the process of getting a “product” and promoting a “product”. Just that, all these “identifications” that identify with certain qualities of names and forms has nothing to do with the practice of yoga and meditation, or the realization of the Truth, or the propagation of Dharma, which is about annihilation of ignorance and egoism, realization of selflessness, fearlessness, oneness, namelessness, formlessness, compassion and wisdom, and transcend suffering, birth and death.
As liberation, or selflessness, or compassion, or realization of the Truth, is undetermined by all these qualities of names and forms that consist of worldly minded business marketing standards, ideas and strategies, qualifications, certifications, affiliations, achievements, past experiences, excellent and extensive services.
All these identifications with qualities of names and forms are irrelevant to what yoga is, or the teachings and practice of yoga, or the realization of yoga, or the beings who learn, practice and realize yoga, or the liberated beings who share the wisdom of yoga with other beings.
Here are some examples of a common profile of most yoga schools and “professional” yoga teachers who provide yoga courses, yoga classes, or yoga exercise classes :-
“Want to teach yoga? Want to be certified as an internationally affiliated and recognized yoga teacher? Come to us, let our professional yoga teachers trainers to train you to be a qualified professional yoga teacher and be certified and recognized internationally”
“Our yoga school is a Yoga Alliance 200 Hour & 500 Hour Registered Yoga School.”
“Our yoga school has been established for how long.”
“I am a Yoga Alliance 200 Hour & 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher.”
“I have been practicing and teaching yoga for how many years.”
“I have been to such and such yoga schools.”
“I had learned and graduated under such and such yoga teachers and gurus.”
“I have attained such and such qualifications and certifications recognized and issued by such and such organizations, or alliances, or affiliations.”
“I am a qualified and certified yoga teacher, I teach such and such types of yoga classes.”
“The type of yoga classes and practice that I teach will give you such and such benefits and results.”
“I am an advance yoga practitioner and yoga teacher, I practice and teach advance yoga.”
“I am experienced, knowledgeable and well-trained yoga teacher. Come to my yoga class. I teach you yoga. I teach you yoga exercises.”
“I have how many years of teaching experiences.”
“I have taught yoga classes in such and such (creditable) yoga schools.”
“I am a good, happy, healthy, experienced, knowledgeable, fit, strong and flexible yogi and yoga teacher.”
And so on…
There is nothing wrong with all these worldly thinking, ideas, qualities and identifications, and most people want or need to see all these qualities to find what they believe is a “good” and “reliable” yoga school or yoga teacher, that will give them what they want after they have paid some fees to be getting something that they are looking for. As well as most yoga schools and yoga teachers also think and believe that they need to have such qualities to convince themselves and the world that they are experienced, qualified, knowledgeable and good enough to give or provide some forms of services, courses or classes to those who pay them some fees for some services or results in return.
But, yoga is nothing to do with all these worldly image or identifications, or worldly ideas of marketing strategies, business exchange of services and achieving results.
All these names and forms have no meanings or values for beings who truly practice yoga and meditation to transcend suffering, egoism, ignorance, names and forms.
Who is being there to identified with all these qualities of names and forms, to acknowledge ourselves and others that “this” is who I am, what I am, what I do, and what I can give you?
Those who had realized selflessness, who have gone beyond the qualities of names and forms, who are free from egoism, and who can guide anybody towards selflessness from their own direct experience and realization, out of compassion, undetermined nor limited by any worldly individuals or organizations to qualified or certified them to be sharing love, peace, compassion and wisdom with anybody, without intention, without identification, without discrimination, without attachment, they are not determined nor limited by any qualities of names and forms, nor will they strengthen the worldly ideas and attachment towards the qualities of names and forms, when the basic teaching and practice of yoga and meditation is to go beyond all these qualities of names and forms, and realize selflessness, namelessness and formlessness.
Those who are suffering, and are determined to be free from suffering, they will either meet the teacher, or the teacher will come to them naturally, when the time is right, to guide them, to show them the way. And the teacher is not necessary in a form of human beings who bear the title of “experienced, qualified and certified yoga teacher”.
Everything else is just a play of some worldly ideas and egoistic desires.
The Truth or Dharma, is always here as it is. It doesn’t belong to anyone or any organizations. It is not limited in yoga schools, yoga courses, yoga classes or yoga teachers. It’s not tradable nor exchangeable. It can’t be sold nor be bought. It is whether we realize it, or not.
Yoga classes are in great demand, as there are many people interested in joining yoga classes. And there are many “yoga classes” available in many places in the world, where people can attend one or a few “yoga classes” everyday, or a few days weekly or monthly, or once in a while. But, what is a yoga class?
Yoga classes that exist under certain names and forms that are available in particular time and space, with some teachers giving some forms of yoga teachings and giving instructions on how to perform some yoga practice (including the basic observations of Yama and Niyama, yogic cleansing practice, selfless service, study of the teachings of yoga, chanting, yoga asana practice, pranayama, concentration and meditation practice), act as the doorway to yoga, or as a foundation for us to start to perform our own yoga practice to eliminate ignorance and egoism. And yoga practice exist everywhere and in every moment, unconditioned and unlimited by name and form, time and space. It is not limited in a “yoga class” getting some instructions from a teacher to tell us what we should do and shouldn’t do.
When we attend some “yoga classes” or “yoga courses”, our motivation or intention is to learn about yoga and the yoga practice which can lead us to realize yoga, under a teacher’s guidance and advice. But, we have to walk the path by ourselves. The teacher cannot do the practice for us, cannot eliminate the ignorance and egoism in us, cannot free us from suffering. Nether by attending “yoga classes” regularly due to the reason we don’t have self-discipline to be performing our own regular yogic practice will guarantee us liberation. It’s not about attending a “fitness training exercise class” doing some yoga asana exercises under the instructions of a teacher, to attain some physical and mental fitness and health benefits, to boost our confidence, self-worth and physical performance. Though there is nothing wrong with this intention and expectation for attending “yoga (asana) classes”. As just by performing regular yogic exercises without the intention for spiritual realization will also bring some basic purification effects to the practitioner. But without the practice of non-attachment and letting go of the egoism, ceaseless impurities keep arising in the mind, which hinders the mind to see the Truth of things as they are.
There are people who carry out the teachings of yoga in all aspects in everyday life, but they don’t or never attend any yoga classes at all.
After we learn about the teachings and practice of yoga from some yoga teachers, and have certain degrees of awareness, basic understanding, non-attachment, self-control and self-discipline; then the entire worldly existence is a yoga class or journey that allows us to materialize the yoga teachings and practice at everywhere and in every moment.
Every single life experience that made out of the objects of names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and thoughts, are the yoga teachers who carry the teachings of yoga. The mind itself is the greatest teacher among all, as well as the yoga practitioner. The mind is teaching and training itself. And what enable the mind to be at peace, and be free from egoism and attachment, unattached towards all the perceptions of names and forms, unaffected, undisturbed, uninfluenced and undetermined by all the pleasant and unpleasant life experiences, and be free from any impurities, is the yoga practice. Realization of the ultimate Truth, of selflessness, oneness, non-duality, fearlessness, attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness, transcending birth and death, is yoga, or liberation.
The moment the mind comes in contact with the objects of the senses, perceiving names and forms, whenever there are thought activities or thinking process happening in the mind, there is when and where the yoga practice is happening. The yoga class, the yoga session, the yoga teachings and the yoga practice, the teacher and the student, are all happening in the mind in this present moment now, no matter who we think we are, where we are, how we are, in actions or actionless, under any conditions or circumstances, yoga practice exists in every moment of life existence.
Observe, be aware, no attachment… Perform necessary actions, duties and responsibilities, selflessly without identification.
There’s no success nor failure, no good nor bad throughout the journey.
Just that, when there is attachment, suffering exists. When there is no attachment, suffering doesn’t exist.
By being able to perform any physical exercises or yoga asana poses that requires certain skills, stamina, strength and flexibility doesn’t guarantee us to be free from ignorance, unhappiness or suffering, nor will guarantee us unconditional peace and compassion.
Unconditional peace and compassion that derives from realization of the truth and be free from egoism and attachment, is not determined by the conditions and abilities of the physical body to do this or that.
Yoga practice of letting go of the egoism, attachment, identification, craving and aversion, requires great patience, determination, perseverance, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation. Throughout the journey towards the realization of the truth or selflessness, there’s no judgment, comparison nor expectation. Just keep practice, without intention nor expectation, and allow the result or the fruit of our actions / yoga practice / duties and responsibilities to be what it is, as it is.
In the process of practicing any yoga asana poses, in order to be able to come into any of the poses effortlessly without struggle, we need to be patient, be determined, be persevered, be tolerant, be able to forbear any discomforts physically, mentally and emotionally, be able to adjust ourselves to adapt and accommodate the practice under any circumstances, conditions or situations, be able to accept the body and the mind as they are from moment to moment while allowing changes or improvement to be happening naturally as it is, allow the physical body and the mind to develop all the requirements that allow the body to come into the yoga poses effortlessly without struggle, without giving up, without judgment, comparison, expectation nor intention, and allow the result or the fruit of the actions / yoga asana practice to be what it is, to be there as it is.
In the process of performing all these yoga asana practice, it is not about achieving certain results or attaining certain benefits from the practice, nor it’s about to look good and feel good about ourselves (the ego), to boost self-esteem or self-confidence, nor strengthening the egoism, identification and attachment towards the qualities of names and forms, but we should be letting go of the egoism, letting go of identification and attachment towards the impermanent conditions and abilities of the body and the mind, letting go of attachment towards any qualities of names and forms, letting go of attachment towards the egoistic likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, craving and aversion, judgments, comparisons, expectations, intentions, and eventually be free from being disturbed, or affected, or influenced, or determined by the qualities of names and forms, or the result of our actions, and be free from impurities of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, feelings of hurt, guilt and regrets, pride, arrogance, agitation, depression, fear and worry.
When the mind is free from egoism, attachment, craving, aversion, and impurities, the mind is able to perceive the truth of everything as it is, uncontaminated, uninfluenced, undetermined by impurities that arise due to egoistic reactions towards the perception of names and forms based on what the mind believes what things are, under the influence of incorrect information, thinking, beliefs, judgment, imagination, projection, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, craving and aversion. And this allows us to realize unconditional peace and compassion.
Even if our physical body is in good conditions, being strong and flexible, and is able to perform all the yoga asana poses perfectly and beautifully, but if we don’t know what is letting go of the egoism, identification, attachment, selfish desires, intentions and expectations, craving and aversion, then we will still be affected, disturbed, influenced and determined by impurities of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, feelings of hurt, guilt and regrets, pride, arrogance, agitation, depression, fear and worry coming from the egoistic reactions towards the objects of the senses (qualities of names and forms) perceived by the mind through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and thinking faculty. The mind is constantly being in a state of restlessness, and have no peace nor be compassionate towards oneself or others.
The student said to the teacher, “For me, yoga is a fitness exercise. It is a business deal. I pay the money and I expect the customer service that I want. I don’t want the real yoga like the one they do in the Ashrams in India. I don’t agree with the teachings of yoga. I am a Christian.”
The teacher replied, “Be happy. There’s nothing wrong if anyone disagrees with the teachings and the practice of yoga, and don’t want to practice yoga. Even if you have given some money or something to the teacher, the teacher cannot teach you anything, because you don’t allow and don’t want the teacher to teach yoga, as you don’t want to learn and practice yoga. There are other people who come here to learn and practice yoga. The yoga classes here is about yoga. You don’t have to attend this yoga class, if this is not the “yoga” that you want. You can take your money back and leave the yoga class now, if you wish.”
When we perform the yoga asana practice:-
- Take full responsibility for our own well-being. No one can force us to be doing something that we don’t want to do. No one can stop us from doing something that we want to do. We don’t have to agree nor disagree with anyone or anything. No one but our own self knows what is going on in our body and in our mind. It is our own responsibility to entrust “somebody”, or “teachers”, or “philosophy”, or “teachings”, or “practice”, and bring ourselves to be performing some “practice”.
- Let go of the past experiences. Be open-minded for what our body can do and cannot do in the present moment now. Let go of the future anticipation, speculation or expectation. Be open-minded for whatever possibilities that may or may not occur during and after the yoga asana practice, no matter it is something that we desire or don’t desire. Be in the present moment now. Be aware of the reality in the present moment now, and allow the reality to be what it is.
- Let go of the ego. Let go of try to control or interfere with the reality that our ego doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, to change it to be the way that the ego likes it to be. As what our ego likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with, is not necessary the truth of what things really are, or how things should be.
- Let go of craving and aversion. Do not generate craving or clinging onto the pleasant sensations that arise from certain positions or movements. Do not generate aversion towards unpleasant sensations that arise from certain positions or movements.
- Let go of attachment and identification with the physical body and the mind. The body is not me, I am not the body. The mind is not me, I am not the mind.
- Let go of judgment towards the yoga asana practice or the exercises, as the yoga asana exercises or poses are just being what they are, they are neither easy nor difficult, neither beginner nor advance, neither safe nor unsafe. They have no intention nor quality to be something easy or difficult, beginner or advance, safe or unsafe. It is how our body and our mind approach and react towards all these exercises or poses. If an exercise is being labeled as “difficult”, or “advance”, or “unsafe”, it is not the truth. If it is the truth, then everyone who is doing this same exercise will be encountering difficulty and injury, as well as only “advance” yoga practitioner will be able to do it. But it’s not. Some people may find this exercise is not difficult at all and they are not suffering any injuries from doing it, as well as a complete “beginner” yoga practitioner can be performing this exercise comfortably or effortlessly.
- Let go of judgment towards the physical performance or the ability of the physical body to perform the exercises. As selflessness, unconditional peace and compassion has nothing to do with how fit, or strong and flexible is the physical body to be performing the yoga asana exercises “nicely” and “perfectly”, or not.
- Let go of comparison with other people or with oneself. We cannot expect ourselves to be having exactly the same physical condition and ability, and the state of the mind as somebody else whom we admire or look up to. As yoga teacher, we don’t say to the yoga students, “If I can do this, you can do this as well.” as everyone has different physical limitation that cannot be denied or ignored. And yoga, peace and compassion is not being attained by imitating the teacher physically or mentally. It’s coming from self-realization of the truth when the egoism and ignorance is eradicated. We can’t compare ourselves in the present moment now with ourselves in the past experiences, as every moment the conditions and abilities of the physical body and the states of the mind are constantly changing. They are different from moment to moment. What our body can do and cannot do is constantly changing. How we feel and the reactions from the body and the mind towards the exercises while performing the same exercises in different practice also will change. It is not about what our body could do or couldn’t do in the past, nor it is about what our body can do or cannot do in the future. It is about what our body can do or cannot do in the present moment now, according to the condition and abilities of the physical body in the present moment now. We learn about impermanence and allow all the impermanent changes to be what they are from moment to moment.
- Let go of expectation towards the physical performance and the expectation towards the result, or the benefits, or the effects of the yoga asana practice or the exercises. Allow the result, or the benefits, or the effects of the yoga asana practice or the exercises to be what it is. The objective of performing the yoga asana poses is not determined by how strong and flexible is our physical body. We don’t have to be super strong and super flexible to balance the mind, to calm down the mind, and to purify the mind. Even though we don’t know what are the names of the yoga poses, or we don’t know about the history and scientific facts about the yoga asana practice, or we don’t know what is the anatomy and physiology of the physical body, or we don’t know what are the benefits of the exercises, or we don’t expect any of the benefits, the benefits or the fruit will still be there as they are, as we practice. They won’t increase nor decrease, or change into something else, or disappear.
- Let go of anticipation or speculation about possibility of injuries. Be free from fear and worry. Fear and worry won’t stop injury from happening, but it will increase the risk of injury. We perform the exercises with care and attention, but without fear and worry.
- Learn to relax while performing the exercises, while coming into yoga poses and while holding the yoga poses. Let go of timing ourselves about how long we need to perform the yoga asana practice, or how many yoga asana poses we need to perform, or how long we need to hold the yoga poses. Allow the yoga asana practice to be natural being performed according to the condition and abilities of the physical body in the present moment now, not according to what we would like it to be.
- Allow the breathing to be natural. The body will know when to inhale and when to exhale, if we allow the breathing to be natural.
- Learn to be patient, be persevere, be determine to gradually develop the skill, stamina, strength and flexibility for coming into and holding the yoga asana poses. Forbear or withstand any discomforts or difficulties that may arise during and after the yoga asana practice. Be able to adjust, adapt and accommodate the yoga asana practice that the body and mind is not familiar with.
- Do our best. Do what the body can do in the present moment now and not pushing the body to go beyond its limitation. Let go of pre-judgment about what the body can do or cannot do. Be open-minded towards what the body can do and cannot do in the present moment now, as the condition and abilities of the physical body is subject to impermanence.
- Be ourselves. No need to imitate anyone else, nor try to be like someone else, not even our yoga teachers. What other people can do with their body is their capability. What talents and knowledge other people have, is their capability. We don’t have to be able to do everything that other people can do with their body or their mind. How other people think, believe, behave, act and react is their freedom and responsibility. We don’t have to think, believe, behave, act and react like how other people think, believe, behave, act and react, not even the yoga teachers whether they are perfect or not perfect.
- Accept ourselves as we are. Let go of dissatisfaction towards ourselves nor expect ourselves to be somebody else that we are not. Perform actions that we think will bring improvement, and allow changes or improvement to be happening as it is. Accept all the changes in us or in other people as they are, not necessary the way that we like it to be.
- Perform the yoga asana practice out of compassion, renounce the fruit of action or the result of the practice. Allow the result or the effect of the yoga asana practice to be there as it is, not expecting it to be the way that we like it to be, or the way that we think it should be.
- The practice of relaxation is to relax the body and the mind, to release tension physically, mentally, emotionally. If somebody believes in the existence of the soul, then the soul also will be benefited from the practice of relaxation. As anything that is subject to existence, and has a name and a form, they will be affected or influenced by ignorance, egoism, and the qualities of names and forms, and thus it needs to be purified, or to be healed. If the body, the mind, or the soul has some “damages” or “pain” that need to be healed, then naturally they will be healed eventually, even without any awareness nor intention coming from the ego. As all the “damages” and “pain” are caused by ignorance and the ego itself, and nothing else. If we truly want to heal the body, the mind, and the soul effectively, all we need to do is stop hurting ourselves, or stop causing damages and pain onto the body, the mind, and the soul, by eradicate egoism and ignorance, be free from impurities like craving, aversion, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, feelings of hurts, pride, arrogance, animosity, fear and worry.
- We don’t need to have any intention to balance the both sides of the body, the body will be balanced by itself as we perform our practice. We don’t need to have intention to be healing anything, everything will be healed by itself as we perform our practice. All these intentions whether good or bad, they are coming from the ego. If we let go of the ego, there is no intention. Allow everything to be what it is. We just do our best. Perform actions, give and let go.
- Our true nature is beyond existence and qualities of names and forms, beyond name and form, beyond birth and death. It doesn’t need to be purified nor be healed, nor be benefited from the practice of relaxation. It is untouched by good or bad Karma. It is not important whether the physical body can perform the yoga asana poses perfectly or not. Realize our true nature and be free.
Our true nature is not affected, nor disturbed, nor influenced, nor determined, nor contaminated by the condition and ability of the physical body and the states of the mind, and the actions and inactions derived from the egoism. Our true nature is not affected nor influenced by ignorance, egoism, and qualities of names and forms. It doesn’t need to be benefited from the yoga asana practice. It’s the body and the mind that experience suffering, that needs to be purified through the yoga asana practice, to prepare the mind for meditation to know the truth of suffering, and be liberated from suffering that derived from ignorance and egoism.
Yoga asana practice is meant to be releasing tension and not generating more tension into the system. It is meant to be weakening the egoism and not strengthening the egoism.
Relaxed, and not stressed out physically and mentally by trying to perform the exercises perfectly, or try to perform the exercises just like everyone else. We can be doing the same exercises but we might not look the same due to the different physical conditions and limitations that we have individually. Not everyone can do what other people can do with their body. It’s okay, because we don’t have to be able to do what other people can do, to be free from ignorance and egoism. Being able to do what other people can do with their body, doesn’t guarantee us to be free from ignorance and egoism, nor will give us liberation, peace and compassion.
Yoga asana practice is a tool for the mind to attain liberation, be free from suffering that derived from ignorance and egoism. It is about elimination of the egoism and ignorance. It is not so much about being a fitness training or physical exercise to achieve physical and mental benefits, and the body and the mind will feel good after the practice, although there is nothing wrong with all these by products or side effects coming from the yoga asana practice.
It doesn’t mean anything if our body can perform all the yoga asana poses perfectly, but our mind is still influenced and determined by ignorance and egoism, being attached to the qualities of names and forms possessed by the body and the mind to be who we are, being attached to the worldly image, egoistic desires, thinking and beliefs, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements in the mind, being restless and disturbed by impurities like craving, aversion, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, feelings of hurts, pride, arrogance, agitation, depression, fear and worry.