We can visualise ourselves as being composed of different elements: air – intuitive and free; fire – creative and directive; water – flowing and determined; earth – containing and grounding. You might remember thinking about these elements in relation to the cakras. On a good day, these elements mesh into a balanced whole, the balance being a dynamic relationship to allow us to do what we want/need to do. For many of us, our constitution is biased towards one element or combination of elements. For every positive interpretation there is a challenging alternative: air -mental discordance; fire – excessive heat and reaction; water – stubbornness and untempered emotion; earth – stuckness and heaviness. Each element moves through a spectrum of characteristics.
When we move away from our centre, one element can dominate. For example, if we leap into water we can lose our boundaries and become any shape we are poured into. This is ok providing we hold awareness of our own shape. When I am pulled from centre I return to my yoga practice. I sat in the garden on my mat, I remembered the first two yama, described in the yoga sutras (Chapter 2.30)
The yama are one of the eight limbs of yoga (astanga). They can be thought of as disciplines and describe the attitude we have to our external world. Peter Hersnack (PH) described the yama as an opportunity to explore the relationships we form and to discover how a space can be opened within the relationship without confusion about where one person begins and ends relative to another person or thing. A relationship has different parts, it is not one entity. We need to avoid confusion about who is who. Using the image of water, when this element is dominant, we can observe ourselves mimicing the emotions and attitudes of a person we are close to; we may forget to move from our own centre, flooded with the strength of emotion filling the space in the relationship.
The first yama is ahimsa, kindness and thoughtful consideration for others. In every situation we should adopt a considered attidude:
PH: Ahimsa brings a protected space around the relationship. What space am I ready to give the other? Can I offer him a space of security and freedom where that which is vital in him can express itself?
The second yama is satya, to speak the truth, to be authentic. This is truthfulness but with consideration, it should not conflict with ahimsa – your truth should not be used to harm another. Can I be in relationship with another and honour my integrity and principles?
PH: Can I be in the relationship with what I am? Am I able with what I am, to take support on what is? I need to be responsible for the space that I am ready to occupy myself.
A relationship will experience limitation because of differences between two people however this should not limit each person’s freedom. We may not fully understand all that is said and done between us but perhaps we can respect the experience if ahimsa is being observed by both. What a different time we would live in if this level of respect for another being was observed.
PH: ahimsa and satya are the basis for a shared space; we can be in relationship and individually be free. Ahimsa opens a protected space for the relationship, and satya allows for simplicity and direct interaction.
I continued reading and was drawn to the last three yama. The third yama is asteya, not stealing. To take nothing that does not belong to us. This includes not taking advantage when we are in a position of trust.
The fourth yama is brahmacarya, one essential truth. A movement towards the essential; mostly used in the sense of abstinence; traditionally this referred to sexual activity. We can understand brahmacarya as forming relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths; and whilst on our journey of growth we must not forget our responsibility to others and our priorites in life.
PH: asteya and brahmacarya deepens the exploration in relationship but each one has his place in the world, respecting the difference. Asteya allows what is precious in life to reveal itself and brahmacarya preserves and rekindles our energy for staying with what is essential
The fifith yama is aparigraha, not seizing opportunity; to take only what is necessary, not to take advantage of the situation
PH: non accumulation; something beyond us opens up some profound understanding about the relationship. Asteya and brahmacarya deepens the relationship and allows each person to be what he is. Aparigraha explores the possibility of not accumulating, not being attached to what has been found in a relationship based on freedom
Aparigraha – accept the difference between life and the forms by which life reveals itself. Something beyond the relationship can be revealed.
If you study yoga with me, you will know that I have been sitting with the antaraya (obstacles) and what that means for my relationship with myself and others. Over the autumn, I am looking forward to discussing different ways we might counter the antaraya. As a light is shone on the obstacles in our lives and the role we play in putting them there, we can consider how to remove them. Yoga practice is central to increasing awareness and clarity. Astanga is part of that practice. I think I know what we will be spending time with next year.
So it is, Yvonne