In yoga, we often talk about the practice of living life “from the inside out”. This can mean different things. It might be that we practice living with intention, striving to hold a certain expanded or enlightened perspective as we move through our day. It might mean finding ways to be in touch with our selves and the moment, and bringing that sense of presence to our activities. It can also imply a life lived as a result of consciously made choices or nurturing our ability to bring a chosen inner state to situations in our lives.
In yogic understanding, over-simplified as this statement might be, we recognize that ultimately we may not have so much power over what ‘happens’ to us. Situations we find ourselves in, challenges we face, obstacles we must maneuver through both internally and externally arise, seemingly beyond our ability to control them. Yoga teaches that while this may be true, it is equally true that we have free reign over how we act in response to what comes our way. The choice, and therefore the freedom, lies in our ability to choose how we respond.
From this perspective, we might say that yoga offers us approaches to responding to life in a more conscious way, a way of our choosing. It puts the ball back in our court.
This is one reason why the great virtues, qualities of the heart like kindness, compassion, generosity, humility, courage and so many more, are vital and emphasized on the yogic path. They are approaches to meeting life in ways that honour the best in our selves and others. The virtues are pathways through the thicket of life experience that empower us to express and nurture the state of yoga in our lives. In short, they allow us to bring the inside out.
And, for those of us that consider asana is an important part of our path, its no surprise that one of the best places to start exploring and cultivating virtues is on our mats.
For this reason, I’ve chosen to focus on the yogic virtues as the central theme of my teaching events this year. For those that have practiced with me, you know that this has already begun. I look forward to exploring some of the wonderful qualities of the heart and the value they bring to our practice and lives in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for reading.
Montreal-area yogis: This Sunday I’ll be returning to Sun & Moon in Dorval for an afternoon workshop on strengthening your immune system. Hmmm, I wonder what virtue we might be cultivating on that particular day?