Two weekends deep into Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), I am doing my best to soak in all there is to learn. I had this perception that we would be moving all day, but there has been a lot of sitting and discussing. I think I knew deep down that there was so much more to yoga than poses, but there is just so much history and theory to learn, and so much reflection and exploration to do along with it.
The topics that we have spent a great deal of time discussing so far are the first two limbs (of an eight-limbed path) which are the moral and ethical parts of yoga: the Yamas & Niyamas.
“Yamas” are the restraints, the “don’ts”, the social ethics, and the definition that resonates best with me: the way that we interact with others.
“Niyamas” are the observances, the “dos”, and of course the definition that resonates best with me: the way we take care of ourselves. Niyama = Me-yama.
With Rosh Hashanah coming to a close, it seems like a great time to explore these concepts further. Because Rosh Hashanah is also known as “the day of judgement”, and after Rosh Hashanah you have 10 days to reflect and repent and then it’s Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, aka the holiest day of the year. According to Jewish tradition, your fate is sealed on Yom Kippur. While I may not be on board with all of that, I do believe in taking advantage of this time of year as an opportunity to be reflective, to set resolutions, and to right some wrongs.
Our homework right now for YTT is to reflect on the 5 Yamas, and this type of thinking during the High Holidays seems like a perfect fit. Here they are:
Ahimsa (non-violence, non-harmful, compassion for all living things)
Satya (non-lying, honesty, truthfulness)
Brahmacharya (non-indulgence, non-excess, moderation)
Aparigraha (non-attachment, non-hoarding)
This code of moral ethics is complex and deep. For example, we think of stealing as taking a physical object that belongs to someone else… like money, or candy. But what about time? Or attention? Or information? We know that honesty is the best policy, but that doesn’t only mean not telling lies. What about being authentic to your true self?
Our Rabbi’s sermon this year was about the importance of listening… of hearing. This fits right in with asteya. And I can be a terrible interrupter. I can also be guilty of what she called “narcissistic listening” (I think we all probably are) where we have our own talk track inside our heads while the other person is talking, planning out our responses or thinking about something that their story reminded us of. Or even worse yet, hijacking someone’s story to tell them your own. This is probably for all the right reasons, like wanting to relate and connect show that we’re interested, but it’s a form of stealing. Stealing attention. Stealing time. Definitely not “asteya” kosher.
I think for me the Yama that I struggle with the most is non-attachment. We all struggle with change and it’s hard not to hold onto the routines that make everyday life easier, the things that bring us comfort, the ideas that we believe in, or the people that make life worth living. Most of all I struggle with the ideas; the “should” and the “supposed to”.
I hope that sharing these thoughts gives you something fresh to reflect on during this time of introspection, this new year, this new season.
“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi
Shana Tova / Happy New Year to all my Jewish friends! To help you start the year off with something sweet, here is a video of Ari singing “Apples dipped in honey” after his bath, and a picture of his snazzy Rosh Hashanah outfit.
Is there anything sweeter than that?