The following excerpts from a recent interview with Levitating Monkey demonstrate how yoga and yoga principles can lead one to more stillness, peace, self-acceptance and love.
1. Even if you can't fix life's challenges, you can fix your relationship to them
LM: What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?
SI: I can’t say “over-come” because it is an evolving process. But I began meditation practices due to early onset insomnia which is pretty rare to have as a child. (Mine started in infancy.) Yoga has not “cured” my insomnia, but it has helped me navigate the ups and downs with greater ease. From what I can see, challenges are often not completely overcome. We would like them to be, but often they sustain and we can’t “fix” them. I think it is important to know that. What we can fix, is our relationship to them.
2. Focus on the flow of breath and use the asana practice to move toward meditation
LM: For those who are not familiar with your style of yoga teaching, in what ways is it different than other types of practice?
SI: I believe everyone’s style of yoga is unique, as is every practitioner doing each style. However, if I were to describe the practice I lead, I would say thatI focus more on the flow of the breath and using the asana practice as a tool to direct one towards meditation.Instead of working on more or better or different yoga postures, I like to use the postures to lead the students towards a more internal experience and ultimately towards stillness rather than more movement.
3. LOVE is a practice
LM: Can you talk to us about Bhakti and your contribution to the film “Women of Bhakti?”
SI: Bhakti is the practice of unconditional love. While Bhakti may take the form of mantra recitation, deity worship or ecstatic movement, it does not need to contain any of those things. It is simply LOVE- as a practice. The idea is that whatever we practice, that is what we are getting good at.If we practice criticizing ourselves, we will get good at that!The more we accept ourselves as we are in this moment, we spread the idea of self-acceptance to others. The more we accept ourselves as we are, the more we accept others as they are, it is the source of peace on the planet.
4. Don't take yourself too seriously
LM: What are some of the biggest challenges you notice with students new to yoga and how do you help them overcome these concerns?
SI: The biggest challenge for beginners and long-time students is the same. We take ourselves too seriously!Yoga is meant to remind us that we are “not our bodies”, that we have a body, we need to take care of the body, we can achieve liberation in this body- but that it does not define us, that we will drop it someday.Most of us that pick up the physical practice of yoga, work on perfecting the body, perfecting a pose. I believe this is headed in the wrong direction. It is important to practice and honor the body, but not to be attached to its ever-changing whims.
5. Practice accepting yourself as you are this moment
LM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
SI: The best advice that was ever given to me was from my friend Krishna Das, the famous Kirtan Wallah. I had been asking him for life advice, and to give me a practice. I wanted some mantra, some tapas I could work on to “be more spiritual.” He told me that the practice I really needed to be doing was the practice of accepting myself as I was in this moment.
That instead of working on how to “fix” myself, I should work on being ok with the imperfect self that existed now. It was such a mind- bender. I had thought I was supposed to be working on letting go of anger, forgiveness, detachment from material objects, or the more popular “manifest more material objects” that seems to be swimming around in “conscious” circles today. Instead, he showed me that if I could love the self that was angry, if I could be okay with the self that held a grudge- the unconditional love of that self, would be the magic that melted it all. I have not become good at this! But whenever I have a glimpse of it, I find that it puts the people around me at ease…
The full interview can be found at levitatingmonkey.com
Posted on Fri, August 8, 2014
by Sara Ivanhoe