Learnings from Yogasutra – 8

Recently, a dear friend of mine started her podcast and the name of the podcast is “Different Angle”! From the moment I read that title, I have been pushing myself to continue my writings on Yogasutra to include “Different Angle”!

I also remembered the book review I wrote for Reema Ahmad’s Unparenting where I had touched upon this similar concept.

The concept that I am trying to put into words is Pratipaksa Bhavanam (am hopeful of getting to the concept in the next post). Patanjali urges us to make the practice of Ashtanga yoga a basis of our life. The first 2 of the Ashtanga yoga are Yama and Niyama.
Read about Ashtanga yoga here – https://umsreflections.wordpress.com/2023/04/01/learnings-from-yogasutra-1/

Let us briefly look into this Yama and Niyama and understand the practices that come under these headings.

Yama refers to the practice to maintain harmony among interpersonal relationships and to improve them. 5 practices are mentioned under Yama:
Ahimsa – non-violence through thoughts, actions, and words. It is just “not killing”. The thought of Ahimsa should be the seed that will reflect in our words and action. We should not harm others even in our hearts/thoughts.
Satya – spoken truth – speak the truth always and also it should be on par with Ahimsa. Speak the truth in such a way that the other person is not hurt and also it should not hinder the person’s progress in the long run.
Asteya – non-stealing – To be in strict adherence to this practice is to make sure we don’t take things from others without their permission. Things could be thoughts, ideas, works, achievements, fame, or materialistic things. Even the process of taking resources from Nature without giving them back in some way or another is also Asteya.
Brahmacarya – faithfulness in relationships – If Brahmacarya means celibacy then Patanjali would have mentioned it under Niyama. The very presence of this word under Yama indicates the faithfulness with which we need to look at and live relationships.
Aparigraha – This practice urges us to not receive or expect more than what we deserve, even if the other person is willing to give. Before receiving, we should make the effort to give and also be deserving of receiving.

Niyama lists 5 practices that help us to maintain harmony with our own self.
Sauca – Cleanliness of the body and mind. Bathing, wearing clean clothes, and eating the right type of food deal with the cleanliness of the body. Cleanliness of mind expands to include the Sad Urmi (6 things that can bring in challenges/troubles for the self). They are Kama (excess desire for anything), Krodha (anger), Lobha (hoarding of things/knowledge), Moha (infatuation), Madam (arrogance), and Matsarya (to constantly find fault with others).
Santosa – Contentment – When we practice contentment, we stop comparing ourselves with others in wealth, status, fame, education, and other parameters.
Tapah – The ability to stop doing something for the betterment of the self – to consciously start a new habit with the intention of self-improvement. This is where we tell ourselves to move out of our comfort zone in the process to learn something new and beneficial for us.
Svadhyaya – Self-study – While talking about Ashtanga yoga, Patanjali mentions Svadhyaya for the 2nd time and here questions us – Are you doing those things that you really want to do in life? He implores us to look at the way we are drifting from the things that we really want to do. We need to introspect ourselves and our actions at the end of each day without being critical of ourselves. And over a period of time, we should learn to drift toward those things that we really want to do in our life. This is an everyday process.
Isvarapranidhana – This word also is mentioned many times in Yogasutra. With respect to Niyama, it refers to a higher connection we develop. This higher connection is the one that will help us to remain on track to do the things that we would like to do in our life. It can also be applied to overcome bad habits.

For a person who starts on the Ashtanga yoga path, it may be challenging to change the ways of life we are already used to. While we are brought up to accept certain societal ways of living, Yama and Niyama may go against these ways. Let me give an example: We are taught from a very young age to be this achiever – trying to achieve goals with respect to education, job, marriage, buying property, increasing financial wealth, and so many others. We are constantly moving from one achievement to another without being able to enjoy the fruits of this work. We are being chided for being content. We are looked down upon when we express the non-desire to move in the direction of achievement. But this contentment (Santosa) is one of the practices mentioned in Niyama. Vyasa emphasizes this Santosa and says that it is equivalent to 16 times the happiness that you get in heaven. So to bring in the practice of Santosa, we need to unlearn our ways of working towards achieving one goal after another and learn to be content where we are.

It is not enough if we just learn the practices mentioned under Yama and Niyama but we need to take the effort to put them into use in our lives. This process may intervene with our previous learnings or the way we live. We need to consciously choose the path of Yama and Niyama in every thought, action, and expression of ours.

To be continued…


How do you eat?

Are you a person who is a bookworm and doesn’t like the feeling of being away from the book you are reading even during meal times?
Are you a person who is glued to Netflix and/or other soaps/movies and continues your meal times in front of the screen?
Are you a person who needs to know the News constantly and enjoys watching the debates in the political arena?
Are you a person who is constantly scrolling Instagram even while eating?
Are you a person who talks a lot while eating and considers meal times a time to chit-chat?

I would suggest you disengage from any of the above said distractions while eating and focus only on the job on hand – to eat a meal that is the source of nourishment for the body. Take your time to taste the dish. Observe the different tastes (salt, sweet, tangy, bitter, sour) in the meal you eat. Observe the texture of the food you eat – the crunchiness, the softness, the chewy texture – take some time to observe how much time you need to chew each and every texture. Remember to chew with your mouth closed, as much as possible to provide a porridge version of your food to your stomach for digestion. That doesn’t mean you can make the porridge in a blender and just drink it. It is very important to use the teeth. As you keep chewing more and more, the body understands the need for better teeth structures and can bring in the change. Chewing every morsel of food well before swallowing helps us to slow down the process of eating. This slowing down is important for the stomach to send a signal to the brain to stop eating. Our stomach is the size of our fist – of course, it can expand but imagine fitting huge quantities of food in a small bag – it can overflow in the form of reflux! Please take some time to understand how the stomach digests the food – as always check Google, please! There needs to be some space in the stomach after we have eaten for the food to be churned along with the digestive juices. If the stomach is filled to its capacity with food, how can the churning happen? Imagine running a blender filled to its capacity – the contents may not be blended well or there may be spillage.

According to what I have understood, the body considers the time we eat to be the rest/digest mode. It is a time to focus on the food we eat and that alone. There is saliva secretion when we are in this relaxed state of mind during mealtime. Watching -news/movies/soaps/sports – on the screen while eating shifts us away from rest/digest mode. The body’s energies shift away from digestion to those things that keep our attraction stronger – like a nail-biting last over in cricket – heated debates about current issues in politics – a mystery movie or a novel! When we aid in shifting the energies away from digestion, how can we expect the food to be digested fully well?

And to top it all, we tend to lie down immediately after eating. There is also the big issue of feeling guilty over excessive eating or eating all the forbidden foods. So, how we feel about our food is also very important. Do we feel happy to eat this food today? Do we feel guilty about eating rice or fruits? What is our attitude towards food?

The ideal thing would be to cook food with the intention of providing nutrition to the body and to loved ones and not as a task to complete before running to the next one. Enjoy the process of chopping vegetables and cooking too, without complaining or sulking about the tediousness of the chore. Even a simple meal gains value when done with joy and love to feed the family.

Sit peacefully in a place with the intention of enjoying your food. You can sit together as a family and enjoy the meal together. Make an intention to be aware during the process of eating or a prayer for the food in front of you. Just remember to be aware of what you eat, how does it feel in the mouth, what is the taste, and how much are you chewing and swallowing consciously. Slow down the process of eating as this is the most important time in your day. Every other work you do gains energy from this food. Eating is not the last priority of things to do. And stop eating when you are feeling half-full. Lastly, feel good about the food you ate. Feeling guilty about it will only worsen any existing situation.

This might seem like some Gyaan post – yeah, I agree! I have been through almost all of the situations mentioned above in the post and I have slowly come out of it. I try to bring consciousness to whatever I cook and eat. I try to do a gratitude prayer for the food before I eat. And I consciously chew more than before, making time for taste and texture. I try my best to avoid eating in front of the TV. All this is showing up as a mark of the health in my physical and emotional body. So, this is a post where I share my joy of eating.
Can you make time to enjoy your food?

In search of solitude

I have written so much about my meditation journey. Actually, my teacher initiated this practice when I told her about how I struggled to sleep during the night. I found so much peace inside when I slept well and woke up fresh. I dedicated my sleep to my meditation practice.

Then I moved on to practice meditation by myself. I was perplexed when I started by myself. I was so dependent on a guide. Taking help from youtube videos, I started my meditation journey. Every morning I used to sit and ask youtube to guide me to meditation videos which helped to deal with whatever I was going through at that time. I went back to certain youtube channels as I felt a deep connection with the person’s voice. Some videos had the right wording that appealed to me. Slowly I started to make a playlist of videos that I liked and chose one from them. There were a few personal favorites that I listen to even today.

One morning, I was so confused to choose a video for meditation guidance. After spending nearly 20 minutes going through every video, I decided to sit quietly by myself. And that 10 minutes by myself set a beautiful start to the day. The first time I did this was by chance and I never connected the dots.

Another day, I woke up late and felt that I was going to be late for the class I teach. But thankfully logged in 5 minutes early and sat there, eyes closed and I was present with myself. Those 5 minutes changed many things for me inside. The joy I derived from that 5 minutes gently reached out to every minute of my day and it felt like a blessing. I felt the Universe was looking at me with interesting eyes and helping things happen in my path.

The search for solitude ended there. It is not only a place where I am all alone and enjoying my company. It is also those moments where I (my SELF) am completely present with my body and my breath. On some days, this solitude can be a fleeting moment – even before I could feel its presence, it would have moved on. There are days when I can feel it deeply and joyfully.

A cricket match through the eyes of a Yoga teacher

Yesterday I was watching the IPL match. Since this is one of the rare occasions, I chose to mention it first. There were a few things that caught my eye and a few other things which made me draw parallels with life! I feel these parallels happen at every moment of uncertainty that I observe around me. Let me get into those details!

The first thing I noticed was the posture of the wicketkeeper in a wide-legged squat and I was thinking about his knee and hip strength. Then I noticed those fielders – each one getting onto a posture of half-forward-bend when the bowler starts getting ready to bowl. The posture of the batter at strike was quite interesting. While they begin in a posture of the bat touching the pitch, they slowly move into a beautiful Virabhadrasana (Warrior pose) when they courageously hit the ball toward the boundary. The expansion of the body accelerated the ball effortlessly. Maybe I can bring this thought to my teaching practice! The batter at the non-striker’s end is equally ready to move and run – his eyes are on the ball, the cue from the striker and to build enough energy to run.

The body beautifully builds to a sympathetic mode as the bowler starts his run to bowl the ball. Every player on the ground builds into this sympathetic mode as the ball is bowled, hit by the batsman, and fielded. And then for a brief period to the next ball, there is a gentle smile, a pat on the shoulder, the victorious feel of the ball at the boundary – a gentle nudge to the body to relax briefly into a parasympathetic mode. Maybe for some players, it is a constant sympathetic mode till the match ends.

The fielders easily moved to vajrasana and did a slide on the ground. The ease with which they jumped into the air, holding their body weight as effortlessly as a feather was astounding. Many of the asanas were done as part of the fielding or batting modes and I was secretly wishing that they did the breathing right! 😀

I observed that most of them were mouth-breathing…hmm! And the audience too – every person in their excitement of the match forgot the most important part of their breath – nostrils! I was wondering how to reach this message to all those people – the thought process of a pranayama teacher is like that!

There are techniques to deal with a ball based on the point of bounce on the pitch and the techniques to hit a short /long/full-toss ball. The batsmen learn them all during their practice sessions.

We may learn how to avoid a ball so that we are safe – we may learn how to make contact with the ball in the center of the bat and hit it to a square drive or a sixer – we may learn to roll the ball to safety while we run between the wickets – we may learn many such techniques. But there are a few other things that actually change the way the ball behaves when being hit – like the speed of the ball, the turn of the ball, the angle of the ball which hits the pitch, and one fielder who comes into the right place to catch a ball! The batsman may learn all the techniques during practice but what technique will be used for what ball will remain a mystery till the batsman faces the ball in reality. He may make mistakes in judging the ball speed or turn and may get out. But he learns through every ball he hits and every match he plays. The curiosity with which he faces the ball makes it very interesting for him to play the game.

Here I would like to draw a parallel with life – when we learn how life is so unpredictable, we are curious to know what is going to happen next. That curiosity with the support of hope helps us to move forward with life – like the batsman who is curious to know what ball will be thrown at him. We may feel scared to take the next step but still do it with the assurance of belief – the batsman faces every ball with this attitude, with the belief of making contact with the ball. All the techniques we learned may not yield results during some challenging times – when some fielder comes to stand at the right place to catch the ball. Those times it is better to trust in the intuition of our body and soul to move forward. Even if we don’t benefit from the results we would have learned a few lessons during these times.

I surprised myself with this thought process yesterday. Normally I am deep into some book while cricket matches happen and my husband is completely on the ground walking and running along with players. It was a joyful experience for me with my thoughts as I watched a cricket match not to know which team won but to understand the nuances of life!

Learnings from Yogasutra – 7

One of the Pranayama class students volunteered to recite the prayer, as I started the class. It was so joyful to hear that she was trying to recite it just as I do! Some influences of the teacher in real life…he he…it happened to me too!

And then came the lightening understanding of the Gunas in play as she tried to recite the prayer. She started well at a tone (sruthi) that was comfortable to her. The first line of prayer ended on a note higher than she started. When the second line started she used the previous line’s ending note as her starting note. This repeated for the 3rd and 4th line too and by the time she finished the 4 line prayer her voice note was too high for her to control it.

I have always observed her in class – when she joins the Zoom call, she smiles, wishes everyone, and she always makes conversation. She loves to make connections and talks and talks 😀 She also has this quality of talking fast. As I listened to her recite the prayer, these observations were also making the round in my mind. By nature, I have observed her to have lots of Rajas in her – she needs to keep moving and doing something. The practice of breathwork has been the one to bring in a little bit of Tamas to her ever-doing nature.

So, this is what I suggested to her:
-Starting a tone comfortable for you is good – remember this comforting tone. Everyone talks or sings in an effort to communicate and that is a Rajas quality.
-At the end of the line, notice the high note of the last syllable. Remember to pause here. Bring in a moment of quietness which is Tamas.
-Now, bring back from memory that comforting tone and start your second line with this tone.
– At the end of every line, pause to get back to that comforting starting tone.
-As the Rajas gains speed with every line, there is a Tamas at the end of the line to bring it back to normal.

The whole prayer recitation will become a sattvic one when we understand to use Rajas and Tamas in the right amount and at the right place.

If she had continued to recite the starting prayer in her own way – starting the second line using the last note of the first line, she would have had a very uncomfortable tone for the second half of the prayer. She herself confessed that she is not able to recite it the way I do. If she continues the recitation with the feeling of “not being able to do like the teacher”, it may put her in an uncomfortable zone, which can be dukham (a place where we feel uncomfortable or unhappy) for her.

I was wondering about explaining the Gunas with an example and this conversation with my student came in handy for that.

Learnings from Yogasutra – 6

To understand the Klesas, read this post!

Continuing from the above post…

The mind perceives things from the outside world, gives it the hues of experience, and impressions from childhood, and also adds the current state of mind to it. This is how we understand things from the outside world. So, there is always a difference between reality and what we perceive in our minds. This difference in perception is one of the main reasons for unhappiness/not being comfortable – dukham.

There are 3 factors that happen from the outside (of the body) that can cause dukham.
1. Parinama – meaning change – we are not comfortable with change and we tend to feel unhappy when change happens. There might be a need to wear glasses suddenly because of a change in eye power and we may not like the way we look with the glasses. This can cause unhappiness in a person. Some people are unhappy over the sudden greying of hair. These are changes that cannot be controlled and yet the change is not accepted. Non-acceptance of change causes dukham.
2. Tapa – meaning yearning/need – When we desire something so desperately and when we don’t get it, it causes dukham. A mother who yearns to conceive a child goes through dukham because of tapa.
3. Samskara – meaning habit – When we are used to certain habits and suddenly something changes in life and we are not able to continue with our habits can cause dukham. When mom suddenly decides no more bed coffee – there is a change to our habits and we are not happy about it. When we are forced to wake up early than our usual time, it can cause dukham. Any simple change in routine that we are not able to accept causes dukham.

Apart from the outside factors, there are internal factors that can cause dukham. Our state of the mind – called Gunas which are three in number, are the 3 internal factors that are responsible for our perceptions and hence the level of dukham.

Gunas are the three qualities of the mind. They are called Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva.
1. Rajas – passion – This Rajas pushes us into action – Makes us do something. When the mind is anxious we do something. Aligns with Energy, Excitement, Birth, and Achieving a goal. The higher state of Rajas is quick to find fault with others and slow to forgive. Rajas is also over-enthusiastic, greedy, selfish, and clouds our thinking. Here, the line between dharma and adharma is blurred.
2. Tamas – darkness – This Tamas pulls one down, responsible for procrastination, laziness, and lack of movement. It makes a person dull, inactive, and greedy. It creates psychological blocks and a person can become negatively influenced. If Rajas is the Engine, Tamas is the Break. Tamas also provides the stability to stay on course. Tamas is also responsible for sleep and aids in our rest and relaxation. With a high level of Tamas, dharma appears as adharma and adharma as dharma.
3. Sattva – purity – Sattva provides illumination to our thinking and helps us to take the right decisions. This Sattva Guna helps to balance the Rajas and Tamas in the body. It also guides which path one should walk on and which one should be avoided. Sattva brings peace of mind and strengthens and nurtures the soul. There is clarity on dharma and adharma.

The three external factors and the percentage of each Guna within us determine the level of dukham that we feel. The wise one or the Yogi is able to understand all these and is able to balance things well.

An understanding of these external factors and the internal Gunas can help us to move forward and reduce the effect of these factors in our lives and thereby help in reducing the dukham aka unhappiness!

Learnings from Yogasutra – 5

The first word that caught my attention during the study of Yogasutra was Kriya – meaning Action, Practice. And whatever we practice with complete awareness and attention becomes Yoga. Even starting a new habit can be called Kriya Yoga for that individual.

This sutra no.1 from Chapter 2 is one of my favorite ones:

tapah – svadhyaya – isvarapranidhanani – kriyayogah |

Any new practice or change of lifestyle or learning a new skill/language can be termed as Kriya yoga when done with tapah, svadhyaya, and isvarapranidhanani. Let us try to understand this in detail.

Why do we need a new practice or a new habit? Why do we need to learn something new – a skill or language? Why do we need to change our lifestyle?
The reasons can be a desire for knowledge and growth. It can also be a step towards better health. Sometimes this new practice could be the path to spiritual growth.
To practice something new, we need to let go or burn the old habits, understand and move away from the negative traits and allow the ones that suit our practice to come to us.
Tapah – meaning to burn – this new practice can aim towards burning/eliminating something that is not good presently. It can also aid in adding something to the individual which is essential for their life but they don’t have within them.

What do we need to do before starting a new practice?
Svadhyaya – meaning self-study. Here we try to understand if this practice suits our life and position at the present time. We can try to understand whether this practice suits the age, health conditions, physical fitness, professional experience, and familial responsibilities.

What result can be achieved through this practice?
Isvarapranidhanani – meaning to be connected with a higher principle/conscience/energy.
Results are not in our hands. We can work on strengthening the ability to accept whatever result comes out of this practice. We have a goal/ambition. Our job is to do the practice with utmost honesty and integrity. Aiming and moving towards the goal is more important than results.
Our human mind always thinks about the results – what possible results can come out of action? – If this result happens, I will do like this – We are always trying to define the results using our restricted thinking.
But the Universe is big. There are more possibilities for results than the human mind can think of. So, when we let go of the hold on a particular result then we allow a different result for the practice we have done to materialize.

I remember this example so well, which my Sir quoted in class:
There is this boy X who is preparing for his board exams. His goal is to get the State Topper rank. He gets up early, has a bath, says his prayers, and studies with undivided attention. This is his kriya yoga for the whole year. He doesn’t watch TV nor he idles away his time scrolling on his phone (tapas). He has done a detailed study that this is the right age to write his board exams so that he will be qualified for his engineering entrance exam (svadhyaya). Now, he can try his level best to attain his goal. But there can be only one State Topper. So, he also needs to develop a certain state of mind to be more accepting of the rank he gets instead of feeling dejected over missing a State rank (isvarapranidhanani).

To be continued…

Learnings from Yogasutra – 4

Every action we do results from our colored perceptions of the outside world, which is termed Klesa. When any of the Klesa is active, the result is Dukham – suffering – a state of uncomfortable feeling – a feeling of restlessness! This Dukham can happen immediately or after many years too!

We can observe ourselves and understand that there is Dukham in our life. Then we can look at our actions that led to the Dukham and maybe take corrective actions. There may be moments when the Dukham from the present moment is a result of action from many years back and completely out of our mind. Then how can we understand what caused the Dukham? How do we determine if it is the result of a Klesa that happened recently?

Patanjali suggests 3 parameters for us to understand if our actions are based on Klesa or not:
1. Jati – Quality of action – This checks our actions by asking us this question – “Will you be ok if others did the same thing for you?” According to me, this is something very powerful and has brought me down to humility many times.
2. Bhoga – Feeling that accompanies the action – This is our conscience trying to tell us if we are doing the right thing. So every time I place my hand on my heart to feel if I am doing the right thing.
3. Ayur – How long does this feeling last? – Actions done with morality will certainly make us feel happy and we feel content with those actions. If the feeling is not good, it may come back to us again and again and then we need to work on it.

So, here is the task. We have 3 parameters to check our actions to understand if they are based on Klesa or not. Whenever any action is performed, reflect on the actions, understand the desire behind it, check the parameters, and take corrective action if required. Even when we are in this tracking mode, Klesas can play with us. Avidya can play host to a lot of undesired perceptions and we may lose track of the parameters to check our actions.

How do I stop myself from doing actions based on Klesa?
How can I look at the mistake I am doing before the action itself, instead of introspecting later?

It is such a challenging task, right? How can I constantly keep monitoring myself and my actions to know if they are based out of Klesas? Phew!

Patanjali gives one more suggestion here – Let us look at our actions as to whether they are based on Punya (virtuous actions) or Apunya (non-virtuous actions).

A simple explanation of Punya Karya (virtuous actions) – “What you don’t want others to do to you, do not do it to others”. Doing Punya Karya will give us happiness while Apunya Karya will result in unhappiness or suffering.

To be continued…

Learnings from Yogasutra -3

Let me continue with Klesas in this post. I am planning on explaining them in detail with examples from real life.

To begin, the first one is Avidya – To know something wrongly and to be convinced that it is the right one. This can happen over the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual beings within us.

To look at a rope lying on the ground and to presume/assume/think that it is a snake is Avidya. The mind is not interested in checking the facts but there is a strong assumption that the rope is a snake.

We might look at people for the first time in our life and judge them easily for their expression of emotions or behavior as an angry person, lazy person, etc. This is Avidya in action. We don’t take time to understand the person or the circumstances of their expression.

The second one is Asmita – The ego which thinks that the self knows everything and that the self is the greatest. There is no learning and growth here.

The self tends to focus on transient things like the identities we hold instead of connecting with the deeper meaning behind the self. Instead of making space for learning and growth, we tend to give importance to the image our identities have created in the world. Even though I am here now as a yoga teacher, I should be able to willingly surrender myself to the role of a student to help myself learn and grow in the process. If I think too much about the identity of a teacher – the thought of “I know everything” creeps inside me – then there is no learning or growth.

The third one is Raga – The force which makes us do things because we derive pleasure from it. Our biggest Raga is Food. Even though we know the consequences of eating too much or eating the wrong type of food we do it for the pleasure of it.

Addictions also come under Raga because we know that it is bad for our body/health but still we go behind the addictions for the pleasure derived from them. We push away the consequences of those addictions because of the attachment to the pleasure that comes out of that addiction. Examples can be – eating sweets when we have been advised not to eat them as the attachment to the sweets is too high – smoking cigarettes – consuming alcohol – getting attached to money – attachment to another person.

These pleasures, which in the long run is not going to help a person, is Raga. Stealing can give pleasure to some people when they are in the act but getting caught is not a good thing. Still going for it repeatedly is Raga.

The fourth one is Dvesa – That force that makes us do things out of hate is Dvesa. Sometimes we are so overcome with hate of the self or others, that we do extremely harmful things. This is the opposite of Raga. Dvesa is also the state where Raga doesn’t get reciprocated by the other person. When the feeling of aversion or repulsion grows towards a thing or person, it is an indication of Dvesa. Since the source is hatred, the result can be unhappiness.

The fifth one is Abhinivesa – The fear of losing – the fear of failure. Our biggest Abhinivesa is the fear of death. One important point to note is that all fear is not Abhinivesa as we sometimes learn to withdraw from situations because of knowledge.

When fear is the dominant emotion, it overrides all other emotions. The experience derived from past experiences is not taken into account when fear is dominant. Fear of losing can happen to people who are knowledgeable also. All of us want to live for one more day, one more night – when this desire is strong we fear death!

While Raga and Dvesa can be overcome by knowledge to a certain extent, Abhinivesa is a challenge to overcome.

When Klesas are strong, it brings us unhappiness – dhukham – a feeling of not being uncomfortable!

To be continued…

Learnings from Yogasutra – 2

My biggest learning from Yogasutra is the understanding of perception. Before Yogasutra, I had my own perception of how I perceive things, or probably I was too disconnected from my body and source to even think of such things.

So, there is this body of mine with the 5 sense organs present in it. These sense organs are constantly engaging with the outside world to receive inputs. These inputs are absolutely necessary for the body to process them as it helps the body to be in a safe space. My body needs to know where I am physically present, how cold or warm is the temperature around me, the emotions I feel being in that place, to understand if the smells and sounds from the place are comfortable for me. But there is a depth to this – the inputs are not just sent as facts to the mind for processing. Every fact that enters the mind is being colored by previous experiences from similar places and emotions, by impressions from childhood memories, or having listened to experiences by others in similar places.

This coloring could be our ignorance, wrong understanding, desires, ego, hate, fear.

All the facts that the sensory organs are receiving as inputs are duly colored and then presented to the mind. So, sometimes even though we are in a safe place, the mind is not able to perceive it.

The colors that get added to the facts are called Klesa. Klesa is of 5 types:

1. Avidya – To know something wrongly and to be convinced that it is the right one. This can happen over the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual beings within us.
2. Asmita – The ego which thinks that the self knows everything and that the self is the greatest. There is no learning and growth here.
3. Raga – The force which makes us do things because we derive pleasure from it. Our biggest Raga is Food. Even though we know the consequences of eating too much or eating the wrong type of food we do it for the pleasure of it.
4. Dvesa – That force that makes us do things out of hate is Dvesa. Sometimes we are so overcome with hate of the self or others, that we do extremely harmful things.
5. Abhinivesa – The fear of losing – fear of failure. Our biggest Abhinivesa is the fear of death.

These 5 Klesas are the ones that color the facts we receive from our sensory organs and then presents it to the mind. The Klesas can act singularly or together.

After reading and understanding these Klesas, I learned to look at the inputs that I am receiving from my sensory organs and what I was perceiving from the situation. It helped me to understand which Klesa was acting too strongly for me. Whenever I felt that I was acting out of fear or anger, I paused to understand what is causing that fear or anger to rule my mind. This pause has been my healing. This pause has helped me to look at my Klesas with a broader understanding. I started to look at that point in my life when the Klesas became stronger. I taught myself that I need not react or respond from a state of fear or anger anymore. I repeated to myself that I am in a safe space – indeed I am.

These self talks on being in a safe space, of being surrounded by good people, of being guided with love by the Universe, of repeated gratitude towards the blessings in my life have helped me to act from a space of love and kindness. After all this amazing self-talk, I may also fail myself on particular days for certain moments, but I learn to bounce back with love. For this life is short – let me feel and act from a space of love!

Please take some time to read this post, on the same lines: