Yoga is something one lives, not something one does.



YogaBuds Studio in Toronto – a very unique place to study Yoga and Mindfulness for all ages

How you practice your yoga and live your practice is much more meaningful than which yoga asanas or postures you can or cannot do. Over the almost four decades and various life stages that I have sustained my yoga practice, I have come to realize that great symmetry has been created between my life on and off the mat. My practice and life merged into a single path. I have always been inspired to stay connected to the authentic yoga principles, philosophies and practices, and to live a life infused with spirituality. My teaching has reflected this for in my YogaBuds studio I have tried to illuminate for my students – kids, teens and adults – how the yoga practice can become intrinsically bound to every aspect of life.

YogaBuds Teaching and Mindfulness

Through my teaching, my students are given insights into the important messages and lessons of yoga. I often share personal stories about living a yogic lifestyle and describe how to carry your yoga with you throughout your day and into your life always. Developing a mindful awareness to our actions and thoughts is key for integrating yoga into our lives. The ultimate goal of yoga is to quiet the mind. Through the combination of yoga practice and mindfulness, students are guided to quiet their mind and be fully present. In class students have many opportunities to observe the multiple distractions running through the mind, to practice grounding, connecting to the breath, and drawing the attention back into the present moment.

Increasing self-awareness of one’s posture and understanding the relevance of good posture for overall health is a key component of the YogaBuds curriculum. Students are encouraged to pay attention to their postural habits including how and where tension is held. With mindful awareness and positive intentions one can pay attention wherever one is – seated at a desk or in a chair, while driving or on the computer or even while waiting in line – and create improvements by changing old habits. Students are taught how to implement simple modifications if for example the chest is concave, the neck is bent forward, or the body weight is unevenly distributed. One of the most important outcomes of these improvements is undoing the detrimental and cumulative effects of technology on posture and the prevention of future health issues.

The first Yama: Ahimsa

All yoga practice has its foundation in the first yama: Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence and compassion. We should strive to keep this in word, thought and action. When we successfully do this, life and practice align. This is yoga. We can make a choice to remain conscious of this and practice this both on and off the mat. We can choose to be thoughtful, friendly, courteous, non-harming and non-judgmental and demonstrate loving kindness to all: family, friends, strangers and most important, to our selves. I believe that when we remain cognizant of this very important yama, or tenet of yoga, and practise Ahimsa, we will feel a sense of abundance and gratitude. This then leads to a sense of well-being, and a profound feeling of wholeness, contentment and joy.

Accepting our limitations and moving forward

Daily living, stress and personal anxieties combined with the aging process provides us with ample opportunities to manage the unexpected and unwelcomed changes that life regularly brings forth. These challenges may include mental or physical health issues, injuries, conditions, loss and pain. Learning to accept our limitations and adapt and adjust to them while on the mat teaches us to also do this when confronted with other challenges off the mat. Through the ongoing practice of asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation), we learn how to create stability in our body and steadiness in our mind, and experience a sense of inner spaciousness and stillness, first in the studio and then out in our lives.

Indeed, yoga is invaluable for learning how to stay present with the ride and how to be accepting of whatever unfolds. Through commitment and devotion to our yoga practice we can derive the many physical, mental and energetic benefits of this timeless tradition. We are capable of accessing calm in the chaos. An open road lies ahead and we can thankfully take our yoga with us on the go.


“Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile, dwelling in the present moment, I know it is a wonderful moment.” –Thich Nhat Hahn


To learn more about YogaBuds, CLICK HERE


Magical Moments of Gratitude and Abundance


Yoga is the flow of energy – within our selves and everywhere. For we are comprised of prana, the life force, and as yoga connects us to our selves we connect to prana. We are made up of our parents’ genes, our unique talents, skills and personalities, to the elements, to one another, and to so much more. With continuous yoga practice, one begins to experience the flow as it is as well as where it may be stuck in our bodies or minds.

Each morning during vacation I practice for several hours with the ocean as the backdrop. The sound of the tide connects me to the rhythm of my own breath and to my movements. For all yoga is attention training. As we focus on the ever changing flow of energy – of our respiration, in and out, of the elements of the pose and all of our subtle adjustments – we then stop, remain still, and experience the essence of the pose and the fullness of the moment. All dualities slip away and we are here. And here in the moment, I experience a deep sense of connection to everything. I feel such gratitude and abundance, and contentment flows, like my energy or prana.

My discovery of yoga in my early twenties was simply a surprise and a blessing. I have never wavered in my practice or studies since my first class 36 years ago. My awareness of consciousness and my appreciation of the vastness and beauty of the minutiae of the present moment continues to deepen as does the connection that I feel to the breath, the pause, the flow. One late afternoon I watched a lone swimmer quite far out in the ocean until my eye could no longer see him. As he vigorously swam for miles I knew that I was witnessing a most incredible expression of the mind-body-breath connection. As I watched his prowess, fluidity, rhythm, speed, and focus, I was amazed. I felt immense gratitude to observe such a incredibly beautiful moving meditation, and another example of the flow of energy.

Recently, I had a very meaningful dream. A white baby goat was the dream symbol that spoke to me as clearly as a bell ringing across a meadow. In my dream, I am sleeping and the goat is curled against my side next to Sarah, my black cat. As I am leaving my dream state and gradually awakening, I am confused and upset for I realize that it is only Sarah who remains next to me, in real time. In despair and still half asleep, I ask out loud, “but where is the goat?” All day the imagery of the goat stayed in my consciousness. I was struck by the contrast between the white and black and thought it suggested dualities. My husband suggested that I research its meaning. As I read I was excited to learn that dreaming of a white goat is a symbol for good luck and happiness and that it further symbolizes balance, respect and grace. But what I found really interesting is that the most common meaning is that of abundance and mirth.

Receiving my morsels along the path of yoga are like the crumbs discovered by Hansel and Gretel guiding them on their journey home. As I meander down my long and winding path tasting the rewards of yoga, I recognize that yoga has taught me devotion and has granted me many gifts: serenity, health, balance and joy. It has also provided me with a space to be – to find stillness and softness, strength and balance. From adolescence to middle age, from being single to married and through three pregnancies and deliveries, with the pillars of love and loss, wherever I am at in any given moment in time, yoga has been my Light and has ignited my own inner Light. I have learned to be present, to find space around my heart, and to connect with others, heart-to-heart. Daily I sit in gratitude and abundance. Perhaps my goat will come again soon to visit.

The Light, Truth and Freedom

photo 3

There are times when clouds block the light. Carl Jung, the father of spiritual psychology, suggested that our shadow parts similarly create blind spots for us that limit our ability to see the light, or the truth. However, when we are willing to look behind that which blocks us we may experience illumination. When we pay attention, develop awareness and stay attuned, then perhaps the light can shine through and we may be able to understand that which is the truth.

Oftentimes, our longings or old belief systems may influence our perceptions and convictions. In fact, these may be so pervasive that they become our sense of reality even when they are illusions. Reality remains distorted and elusive. How then do we counter this tendency towards illusion or distortion and develop the skills needed to be aware and attuned in order to live in satya, or the truth?

A few months ago, I spent two restless nights tossing about after experiencing hurtful behaviors. On the third morning, I spent a few hours in a beautiful natural environment. In my solitude and sadness, I retreated to a very quiet inner place and meditated. Feelings arose, and I simply sat with them even though they were uncomfortable. Welcoming the tears that fell spontaneously as my heart unfolded, I created for myself a symbolic cleansing of sorts. So much of what I walked away with included a new sense of freedom and a commitment to accept the truth. No longer would I have expectations that would simply never be fulfilled. It was as if the sunrays carried the truth on them and I could now be receptive to it. This was a powerful experience and my desire to create and implement change was absorbed into my psyche and being.

This may sound easier than it really is. But when we are truly committed to acknowledging old habits and recognize reality without distortions we have to challenge ourselves to go beyond what is comfortable and eventually truth and authenticity can be known. When we practice yoga and mindfulness meditation, and remain in the asanas or postures while staying present and attuned to the feelings, thoughts and sensations that arise, we are more able to be receptive to what really is in front of us. Sometimes, it might take a long time to reach this place of acceptance but it is important to try. Gradually, we can begin to trust our inner knowing.

There is an old Biblical phrase that states, “The truth will set you free.” When we remain in bondage to illusions or falsehoods, there is no freedom or light. Next time you feel uncomfortable and something is gnawing at your heart, sit back, open your chest, focus on your breath and listen to all the sounds surrounding you, and perhaps you will also hear the inner messages of your heart. Once we are dedicated to that which nestles in our hearts, we can access the unspoken truth. Then the heart can rest when it is in Satya. And when you have a deep inner conviction, much in the world will support you.

Temmi Ungerman Sears

“There is no god higher than truth.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Sutra II.36   Dedicated to truth and integrity (Satya), our thoughts, words and actions gain the power to manifest.

Riding on the waves

Occasionally, my husband of almost twenty-five years will tease me by declaring that I am never in the moment. I think to myself, “And who is the yogi here? And who is the yoga teacher?” But when I separate his words from my ego, I get their meaning and I have to admit, if only to myself, that at times my husband is right in some of those moments in time! I am always appreciative of him and especially for his nudges and encouragement to me to keep evolving. Practising being fully present requires diligence and commitment as does remaining consistent in one’s yoga practice. When life gets in the way it is all too easy to slip from these practices but as greater symmetry is developed between life both on and off the mat, mindfulness envelops us in most of what we do. And herein lies the inspiration to keep plodding along.

For weeks, I have been struggling to figure out what feels right to write for my blog. I have missed my connection with my students through my written words, and even with myself through the creative process of writing. For during this past year various demanding situations claimed my attention and absorbed my motivation for writing, even at times influencing my yoga practice. Each challenge seemed to touch my body mind and spirit and brought me head on into the present moment. It dawned on me that writing about what has challenged me, what has sustained me, and where I am right now would make the most sense as I would then be sharing from a place of truth and honest intentions.

After returning home from travelling to India with my daughter last summer, I discovered that I had become afflicted with various intestinal issues and parasites. It took several months and various courses of antibiotics before I regained my health. My yoga practice was compromised because my body simply knew that it wasn’t interested in nor capable of moving in intricate ways. Recognizing that to everything there is a season, patience and acceptance guided me during this time of modified practise. In addition to these physical challenges, my family of origin became immersed in a very emotional business transaction. This stressful situation took an incredible amount of energy and time while I was concurrently preparing over several months for my role as a chaperone on a Holocaust educational trip. This journey was very impactful and truly dominated heart and spirit. While in Poland and Israel this spring with 300 sixteen and seventeen year old teens and eleven Holocaust survivors, we visited cemeteries, ghettos, death camps and death facilities, memorials and mass graves in forests. This was a deeply disturbing and powerful experience. As a chaperone on the March of the Living, I was responsible for the participants while simultaneously living history and experiencing these horrors through my own eyes.

On my personal march through these various transformational experiences something was required in order to manage it all. That something was my yoga. Thirty-two years of devotion to yoga practice has formed a foundation for my life and supports me with what I need in order to feel a sense of well being, wholeness and joy even while coming up against a challenge. Many of the lessons learned and the skills honed over the years from yoga practice enabled me to successfully navigate through the turbulent waters I faced during the past year. For yoga has taught me how to remain present and centered for the ride and I am able to do this because my life and my yoga merge into a single path. When I am riding on the waves I move completely into the present moment. It is my belief that in ways well beyond my comprehension, I was also being asked during the past year to simply trust in the universe and to trust in the Truth.

Processing these recent impactful situations will take a long time. However, finding my passage onto the yoga mat and back to the keyboard feeling inspired and excited, it seems that my creativity is again being sparked. This makes me very happy for I have longed for stillness and solitude and presence in moments that are unbridled with external stressors. By tapping into an authentic and honest place, I can remain true to myself, listen and nurture my spirit and sit still for my creativity to surface. Thus, yoga, mindfulness and creativity are all practices that are inextricably bound to every aspect of my life and for this I am most grateful.

Remember, the door to the sanctuary is inside of you.”

– Rumi

The Art of Finding Balance and Unity in Everyday Life

The first instruction children hear when learning to cross the street is “Stop, look both ways and wait until the road is clear.” However, if children in India listened to this advice they would grow old waiting to cross! There is an order to the endless flow of traffic (cars, scooters, rickshaws, bikes, cows, buffaloes, goats and people) that ensures safety. Once one has started to cross, one must keep going and crossing on the diagonal seems to work best! Indeed, there is a balance underlying the chaos.

My time in India continues to be filled with several hours of yoga each day – in class, one learns and thinks while during practise, one studies and feels. The yoga process is about evolving consciousness and here in India, learning to mitigate the contrast between my inner world and the outer world is a part of the learning experience. The quietude of the mind, the stilling of consciousness and the intense inward focus one strives to maintain during practise enables one to penetrate deeply inward and block external distractions in spite of the ongoing honking, birds or voices that came be heard through the open windows of the pavilion. Thankfully, yoga has taught me how to access my center so that I am better able to merge my inner world with the outer one without losing my balance or stability regardless of the intensity of the situation at hand. My center is like the fulcrum of the teeter-totter.

Studying here at the source of yoga, and with the source of Iyengar yoga is a double blessing. While assisting in daily Medical classes, Mr. Iyengar has had his eye on the woman that I have been working with this month. He has been designing sequences for her and I have been actively involved in implementing these sequences including his prop setups and verbal instructions. During Medical class, poses are fully supported with multiple props and many of the therapeutic postures are restorative ones. Although there is a bustle in the Hall filled with dozens of patients and teachers, there is also a sacred quiet focus. Stepping out onto the street afterwards, one experiences an immediate sensory overload of the never-ending cacophony and constant motion. The 6 p.m. rush hour after Medical class is such a contrast to the inner sanctum of the Institute. And again, yoga’s lessons on how to remain calm and contained even in these contrasting moments of extreme intensity are applied and appreciated! Yoga, or Yug, means unity. Without the valuable lessons of yoga which include being able to experience unity of mind and body, walking down the main street at this hour would likely result in a very jarring effect on the nervous system. This balance is the baseline upon which I walk.

When the desperately needed monsoons arrived ten days ago, a driving relentless rain persisted for four days straight! My daughter and I were walking through a local market called Lakshmi Road when the rains came and we were caught in it, unprepared. Finding a store to purchase a rain slicker for her we stood four layers deep with people doing the same thing. Unable to find a rickshaw to take us home later that evening and laughingly trekking through what seemed like small lakes instead of streets, we were caught up in the energy of the monsoons. Lying awake that first night listening to the rains, walking around with wet clothes and wet feet (and with a broken umbrella to which I have since become very attached), and hearing words of gratitude spoken by many local people for the arrival of the monsoons fully awakened me to how very precious water is for the billion people of India. It also served as a strong reminder to appreciate our blessing of the abundance of fresh water available in Canada. With the arrival of the monsoons, I again noted extremes, and the balance to the inhospitable dry hot climate that had prevailed for so long.

Over the past several years, I have casually studied the science of Ayurveda medicine. My friend Sonali, a very accomplished Ayurvedic doctor in Pune, gives me treatments when I am visiting. Ayurveda has been practiced in India for at least 5, 000 years and is a form of alternative medicine – it is the oldest surviving whole body system of healing and health. Ayurveda seeks to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the body, mind and consciousness using a comprehensive holisitic approach that emphasizes diet, lifestyle, yoga, meditation, massage and herbal remedies. Because of the importance of balance and promoting positive health, the universal principals and practices of Ayurveda holds great appeal for me. It is also the other side of the yoga coin.

A few years ago I had a very interesting conversation with a family member who did not agree that balance was attainable. However, it is my belief that by embracing the Eight-fold Path of yoga and by implementing Ayurvedic practices, the possibility of successfully creating a state of balance on a day-to-day basis is within reach. During the past few years, I have had to navigate difficult challenges including various hospitalizations of three different family members, and a very disturbing experience with a professional association. But by practicing yoga and utilizing Ayurvedic principles, I was better equipped to access inner strength and maintain my stability while managing these life hurdles. Studying yoga in India, while it nurtures my passion, solidifies my commitment, and deepens my understanding, it also enables me to restore and rejuvenate my mind body and spirit. In my ongoing quest for integration and balance, I continue to learn how to trust in the universe and experience the interwoven fabric of reality.

Temporarily pausing normal routines and responsibilities requires support and resources and spending time studying in a foreign country is a veritable treat to be savored. Learning the valuable lessons of how to merge our inner world with the outer one, identifying personal imbalances and symptoms in order to take care of one’s needs and promote positive health, and recognizing the underlying balance to everything, need not only occur when visiting a foreign land. Attempting to maintain one’s awareness of the yug, or unity of all things is an ongoing process regardless of where one is. But travel is an exercise in mindfulness training and provides a way of shifting perspectives with open eyes and an open heart. With new eyes that are wide open we are able to find or rekindle a balanced way of moving through our days and of observing the unity that exists everywhere.

When I return home I will no longer be wearing my travel lens but I will continue my efforts to maintain the perspectives that India has helped me to have. Undoubtedly many things will arise that will require balancing, including my own state of being. Starting the day with a very mindful sip of coffee and returning over and over again throughout the day to this kind of quiet and appreciative focus and presence – be it on my mat, in my creative pursuits, or in my interactions with others – will continue to be very important. Engaging in the simple practise of being mindful during my daily activities and practices combined with maintaining my intention to evolve consciousness and health will help me to create and experience unity and balance in everyday life – yoga, both on and off the mat.

“Pilgrim, pilgrimage, and road – it was but myself toward my Self,

and your arrival was but myself at my own door.”


Presence and Peace in Moments of Change

One of the most popular and well-known rituals during the Jewish New Year involves dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination is symbolic of expressing the hope for a sweet year ahead. Round challah or egg bread is also eaten to symbolize the circle of life and the cycle of a new year. As the seasons change, and years flow one into the next, we are reminded that the only constant that we can always rely on is change itself.

It feels as if the transition from summer to fall is the most dramatic of the changing seasons when the temperatures and leaves drop and the light changes noticeably. The colours become more saturated, and everything prepares for sleep. One morning we awake to a new crispness in the air. In addition to environmental changes, there is also a shift in attitude and behavior. Back to school, back to the studio, new programs begin and schedules fill up. We shift gears and slide into the new normal.

Early in the classic Yoga Sutra, Patanjali defines yoga as “Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practise and nonattachment” (1.14). The two guiding concepts, abhyasa (perservering practise) and vairagya (nonattachment) are key to yoga. Practise requires will and discipline, and nonattachment is a matter of surrender, release and letting go. Abhyasa becomes firmly established when it is cultivated without interruption and with devotion. We become grounded in the practise of always returning to practise without being bound to past patterns. Vairagya is a state of mind when desire is gone and over time, through practise, vairagya becomes possible.

This September marks my thirtieth year of yoga practise. It is not possible to briefly summarize all that I have learned or what these years of consistent devotion has provided me with. My persevering practise, or abhyasa, has carried me through several life stages. Yoga buttresses my life. Studying the wisdom from this timeless tradition, we learn to focus with attention and discernment while on the mat. Taking these lessons off the mat, we practise letting go and surrendering to each change, breath-by-breath, moment-to-moment.

As my mother takes my elbow for support when we walk together, our son, standing on the threshold of adulthood, at times, pushes back. Our daughter is now balancing with one foot in and one foot out as she prepares to depart for university in a few days. The other night, our youngest crawled into bed to cuddle and chat. Supporting loved ones in different ways, I try to be steadfast with devotion while remaining open to change and fully present. I experience serenity and stability and feel the fullness of the moment. As I practise complete awareness and attunement I also let go and embrace each change as it unfolds. A sense of peaceful spaciousness within is felt.

Whether alone on my mat or with loved ones, I practise gratitude for my many blessings. Cherishing feelings of connectedness and abundance, I am most thankful for my yoga practise. Tradition will ensure that apples and honey welcome in the new year. And as I greet each change and hold it in awareness, I taste and savor the sweetness of the present moment.

The Joys and Rewards of Living Life through Yoga

Yoga has provided a baseline and a framework for my life. For the past 30 years, I have never missed a day of yoga practice. I view my world from the yoga ‘lens.’ Yoga is so much more than just the physical process. It has enabled me to integrate all aspects of myself and to strive to live an authentic life in which work, family and personal needs merge and balance.

The yoga philosophies, both ethical and moral constraints, the lifestyle of moderation in diet and all endeavors, walking the middle path, interacting without judgment and with compassion, and understanding the interconnections among all living things are just some of the ways in which yoga permeates and guides my actions and thoughts.

Through my yoga practice, I have been able to create time for myself. While savoring the solitude, the practice provides me with a balance against the myriad of responsibilities I face, as well as the hectic pace of life.

During my practice, I draw inward and access the ‘Divine’ within. I experience my creative spirit, and my intuition. It is from my inner core that I am able to experience my authenticity, my strength, and my stability. When practicing pranayama, or breath control, I connect with my breath, and with my inner organic body. From this point of stillness and integration I feel energized and calmed, and am thus able to interact with others with clarity, patience and compassion.

Yoga has been a gift of health to me in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It has helped me to maintain my physical strength and flexibility, to increase balance, coordination and grace. It has enabled me to move through three pregnancies with joy, awe and appreciation and has further assisted me in my acceptance of life stage changes and my transitions through them.

I am honoured to be a conduit to pass on the blessings of yoga to my mother, my three young children, and husband, and to my students.

Meaningful Moments in Muskoka

In their late eighties, my parents have also continually reinforced for me the understanding that yoga truly exists off the mat as much as on it, for countless actions of compassion and kindness are frequently executed by both of my parents. Many deeds of pure generosity illuminate the essence of my father’s spirit: his innate goodness. My mother’s devotion to him and to her family, combined with the ease of acceptance of health issues, reflects an individual who is accepting and patient, flowing with grace, and at peace within herself and her life. Unbeknownst to them, they are constantly practising Karma Yoga.

At the start of my vacation at our cottage, my son went to rest, and my father suggested a ride on the pontoon boat. Going along with my parents on this hot July day, we travelled very slowly along the water’s edge through three adjoining lakes. Cherishing the beauty of the moment – both the exquisite natural world surrounding us and the time spent together that late afternoon – I felt blessed. The lake was very quiet and calm, and we were too. Three hours later, we returned home. I was filled up with the sacred.

A few weeks ago my brother downloaded a Solitaire App on my iPad for my mother and it quickly became an ongoing source of pleasure for her. We have enjoyed watching her embrace today’s most current popular technology. Teasing her about her new addiction, or sipping our glasses of Amaretto, or spending a few silent moments sitting with my father as he pensively gazes at the lake, I am given invaluable opportunities to practise remaining present which arises authentically from my deepest essence. In so doing, I feel my vibrant connection to my parents. To sit comfortably in silence, to listen with an open heart, to hear their stories and share their memories, and even their dreams — these are golden times.

Yesterday morning my father shared with my mother, my husband and myself the dream that he recalled upon awakening. He spoke of his deceased sister, and the address “1188 Bloor Street” where she had run her poultry store with her husband. He stressed the address and was curious about the strong impression it had made on him. Intuiting it’s possible meaning I suggested, “1188: you were eleven when you moved to Royce (and Dupont), and you are eighty-eight as you move your office out from there.” His roots of seventy-seven years are currently being transplanted for the move that began a few weeks ago and is still underway. Possibly feeling uprooted, the address in his dream may have symbolized for him the importance of home, family, and neighborhood and of the significance of roots during the passage of a man’s life.

A mysterious and exquisite experience occurred during a recent Scrabble game with my mother. On my second turn, I discovered a six-letter word hidden in the tiles that was so personal and meaningful to my mother at this time. “I have a word,” I stated sheepishly and placed the tiles down. She then built on the word. We looked at each other and shook our heads in amazement. Perhaps the letters that I picked simply illuminated the closeness and connection that my mother and I share. Reminded again that all things are interrelated in beautiful ways, it is during these moments of compassion that I feel most seamlessly connected to the infinite energy of the universe.

And when this beautiful summer of 2011 stirs in my consciousness in years to come, my recollections will include remaining balanced while perched on the centre of the plateau watching my teenagers emerge into adulthood as my parents move through their senior years. Standing in Tadasana at fifty, I align myself and stand rooted in the unshakeable steadiness, grandeur, and peace of the mountain. I try to remember to breathe slowly, to love fully, and to remain receptive to the radiance of each moment. With this intention, I embrace yoga’s tenets and experience the contentment and steadiness that it teaches me. As I unfold my yoga mat to practise in the same spot at the edge of the dock that I have practised in for three decades, I embody the light, and the learning continues.

“Yoga is a light which, once lit, will never dim. The better your practise, the brighter the flame is.”

– BKS Iyengar

Understanding the Yoga Journey

Beginners come to yoga for relief from stress, physical issues or pain. If the practitioner is consistent in her practice – even just weekly – she observes that her posture begins to improve. If she does miss a class, she finds that she really felt its absence in her week. She discovers to her delight that the body and the postures are really just tools to teach her how to quiet the mind and to connect with her inner self. And that the key to achieving balance in her life is in accessing this center.

The student comes into class, and stands on her mat. The practice begins. The breath has new meaning. Possibly for the very first time ever, there is a new awareness of breath and of the breathing process. The brain cells begin to settle, and there is a meditative quality in practicing the poses. The intense focus on the body and the execution of the postures, or asanas, increase one’s concentration and attention span. All other unrelated thoughts are absent. Challenge and pleasure in movement is felt. The normal experience of an hour or two is altered: time dissipates. Then class is over – the fluctuations of the mind are stilled, the body is well stretched, muscles toned and joints lubricated, tensions are released. The student joyfully steps off her mat and into her world outside of the studio.

Chaos ensues. Traffic jams. Late for car-pool. Deadline at work looms. Return home. One child’s scraped knee, another battle between siblings. While on the phone asking her partner to pick up milk, the pot boils over, the baby spills the can of apple juice and someone is at the door. What happened to the tranquility of the yoga studio? How to remain calm in the present moment without the desire to flee? Where to find the inner point of stillness that the teacher referred to?

There are no easy answers, magic formulas or simple roadmaps to follow. However, committing to a consistent practice of yoga over time does teach you how to return to your center when needed. In class, as you quiet your thoughts, observe your breath and follow the instructions being given while in a pose you learn how to stay fully connected with yourself in the moment. As you learn to detach from external stimuli and distractions and to take your awareness inwards, you are drawn to your core. You begin to discover your own sense of stability, strength, balance and calm. Learning to stand firmly in the basic standing posture called “tadasana” or mountain pose, creates a sense of grounding from the feet. As the rooting in the feet occurs, the spine and spirit begin to ascend up. Eventually, regardless of what surrounds you, you will be able to maintain your poise, steadiness and focus. Then when you have stepped off the mat and into your life, you will be well equipped to tackle whatever challenge presents itself to you with equanimity and grace.

Lessons of Truthfulness and Integrity (Satya)

Lately, I have experienced different situations in which dishonesty has upset the equilibrium of a normally balanced existence. Individuals can be robbed of their sense of trust – in the short-term, by means of words and manipulations, or in the long-term, by actions. Most recently, I had experienced verbal onslaughts and distortions of reality by someone who intended to be hurtful during a time of family crisis. Then, my Ipod was stolen from my beach bag in an area that had long been considered safe. This brazen action occurred right next to my husband and daughter who were both napping at the time.

Another incident that affected me in the past month occurred over a decorative bench. In my efforts to source one for our bedroom, I found a bench in an antique store and bought it with the understanding that I could return it for a full refund if not suitable. The owners also told me that the bench was from the Victorian era. When the upholsterer came out to provide an estimate for recovering it, a story of deceit began to unfold. He said that the bench was a replica from China, and that he could not recover it. When I contacted one of the owners of the store to inform her that I would be returning the bench as previously agreed upon, she now stated that her policy was “store credit only.” The money itself didn’t matter to me at all; the feeling that I had been intentionally misled prevailed and disturbed me. It was the blatant lack of integrity and truthfulness that I found extremely upsetting in these different situations.

Satya, meaning truthfulness, and honesty, is the second of the five Yamas, which are considered codes of restraint and self-regulations, and involve our relationship with other people and the external world. Sutra II, 36, of the second pada, or chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states, “Dedicated to truth and integrity (Satya), our thoughts words, and actions gain the power to manifest.” Thus, for one who increasingly practices honesty or truthfulness in actions, speech, and thoughts, his or her will is naturally fulfilled. We are encouraged to practice exercising care in speaking truth, and that truth is concurrence between thought, word and deed. We are encouraged to be always mindful of the most important practice, which is to cause no harm. The same principal applies to practicing the other four Yamas.

These experiences, though very disheartening, remind me of what is really important, and how being ethical, kind, and honest is of utmost importance. My father has always said that a man’s word is his bond, and that there is nothing more important than that. As we learn to live in Satya, we become familiar with where truth and integrity lie. When someone chooses to take advantage of another, and manipulate circumstance in their favour without regard for anyone else, it is extremely disturbing.

As these simple lessons guide me to remain focused on what is meaningful and what is right, the bench has become a symbol of what platform I wish to stand on and speak from. The Buddha taught us about the Right Path, and Patanjali provided us with the Yoga Sutras. Though misled, set-up, and stolen from, these incidents were opportunities to view my path with greater clarity and purpose. In so doing, I renew my commitment to practise mindfulness and Satya every step of the way.

“Most people will not remember what you said or what you did. But they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou