UBUD, Indonesia // What I learned this past week at the Blooming Lotus Yoga and Meditation retreat was twofold. I learned about yoga and myself, but what I really learned was that I know nothing.
Though my first yoga class was over 10 years ago, I learned the basics for the first time. Yoga as the western world knows it is also called Asana. As the Bali people would say, “same, same”. Asana is a series of positions that ultimately enable you to sit in lotus pose for long periods of time while you meditate. That is the sole purpose of Asana. I have never associated meditation with the quick paced power yoga classes we took in NYC.
In fact, the essence of yoga begins with the Yamas and Niyamas, or the code of ethics that govern how you interact with the outside world, and how you interact with yourself. Basically rules to live by. A yoga instructor wouldn’t teach a student any Asana yoga until they mastered these which could take years.
- Non harming through words and actions // Peace // Love, if you have love in your heart you are a yogi
- Truthfulness in thought and living your truth
- Non-stealing // Taking only what is offered and using only what you need
- Oneness // Unity
- Non greed // Non-attachment not just to things but spiritual attachments as well
- Purity // What you put inside your body // Water // Natural foods // Zen space
- Santosha // Intentment, the act of being happy for no reason // Happy is your natural state with no stimulus needed
- To burn, fire, passion, self discipline
- Self study // Who am I really? // When my titles are removed what am I?
- Devotion to something bigger than you // We are one // Oneness
Basically what everyone should learn in kindergarten.
I also naively or perhaps ignorantly thought yoga had its roots in Buddhism when it actually has closer ties to Hinduism and Sanskrit.
There were also several new concepts I had never heard of like Yin Yoga, Ayurveda, or Yoga Nidra. I encourage you to google them. Theres too much information to go into here and I’m not an expert myself, so I don’t want to give false information, but I encourage you to read about them. I will say the one simple take away from Ayurveda was to buy a tongue scraper and use it first thing every morning. Ayurveda also helped me define my specific body type and what diet would be helpful to keep me balanced such as cool green juices, mint, aloe, lemon grass, turmeric, coconut oil, and cumin. I also should stay away from spicy foods, fruit juices, and caffeine.
I have seen yoga shirts in class with the elephant head and the squiggly symbol that looks like a “30” on it but never known what they stood for. The elephant is Ganesha deity revered as the remover of obstacles. The squiggly is the symbol for the crown chakra which is the center of trust, devotion, and the center of a deeper connection with ourselves.
The closing “Namaste” had never been defined for me which I now enjoy the meaning of even more, “My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one”.
I had never heard Sanskrit mantras before and immediately fell in love with the beautiful rhythmic complex language where each word has 8 different meanings. We learned the Ganesha Mantra, ”Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha” which roughly translates to mean, “give me the wisdom to overcome obstacles.”
Even basic yoga poses like Chaturanga Dandasana I have been doing incorrectly all these years, and they went into why we roll to our right side after Shavasana. We even discussed the proper "om // aum" technique.
What I learned was that I knew nothing. And like a sponge I immersed myself for the week, completely committed to learning and exploring everything I could. I even maintained the vegetarian diet all week and asked questions in group settings.
We had two sessions everyday. 30 minutes of meditation and one hour of Asana each morning at 7:30 AM and 5:30 PM. On 4 days we held workshops to delve into other topics. In the afternoon we read books from the Yoga library and answered reflective questions like, “What is the essence of what I want?” // “How can I be loved?” // “What’s nurturing and balancing for you and what takes you out of balance?”. I created my Sankalpa, a purpose, idea, or concept formed in the heart, an intention of determination for my meditations and my life. Typically they go, “I am ___”. Examples would be, I am whole. I am at peace. I am loved. I am centered. Just defining my intentions helped bring me peace, purpose, and inspiration for the future.
Though I wouldn’t want to be a yogi all day everyday, and I am not a religious person, though I am 100% religious tolerant, there is scientific evidence that shows meditation and yoga are good for the mind and body. Try reading the book Buddha's Brain if you want the proof or you can take my word for it. I hope to continue on the path of meditating at least once daily in the morning for 15-30 minutes. After a week straight I can honestly say I feel the physical and mental changes. Meditation is absolutely free and I find it helps me carry a mindful heart and grateful attitude throughout my day. This week gave me tools to look at life through a new lens, another perspective to see and interact with the world and the people around me.