Whether you practice bendy poses, engage in selfless service or sit in meditation, yoga cultivates a balanced state of being in each moment. We learn to soften and rest in a rooted, vital and expansive state, as part of a much bigger whole. Our sense of separation dissolves and we find a oneness with an immensity beyond our limited sense of self.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient Hindu text, encourages yogis to cultivate “sukha” and “stira”, a balanced state of being that is neither too relaxed nor too alert, but a joining of the two. Many, such as artists, athletes and business people, find a balanced flow when in peak performance. In that flow, the individual has tapped into a much greater whole. There is no defensive holding on to the ego, but a surrender to a much greater force. But that transcendent self can only be touched when we are willing to go within, become aware of the areas that keep us stuck and gently let them go. Just like any Olympian must practice to find that peak state, so too aspiring yogis must practice to find the place of flow and balanced oneness in their lives.
It’s challenging to practice yoga in our busy world. We are surrounded by a million distractions that increase our wanting. It’s an extra challenge in the holiday season with glorified consumption. Rather than moving away from the world, we can see the world as a training ground to strengthen our mind and deepen our practice through personal discipline, focus, receptivity and non-attachment.
As a dedicated yogini and touring musician, I tuck the teachings of sukha and stira away in the back of my mind and let it be the backdrop of my day, a sort of canvas upon which the events of the day are painted. I refer to this throughout the day and inquire into how I am interacting with my environment, others and myself. I find this very useful to keep the notion of Yoga alive in each moment.
When we apply sukha and stira to our way of thinking, we learn to be alert and surrendered, finding a balance between being relaxed and focus, neither stressed nor spaced out. Our mind broadens and becomes more perceptive and able to receive greater information and possibilities.
Each moment is full of information, which we can receive by softening, or reject by shutting down. By being aware of our breath, we can see immediately how we are thinking. Throughout the day, we can ask our self: “Am I holding my breath? Is my breath flowing freely? Through my breath, do I feel personally rooted and connected to the world, or closed, tense and separate?”
A daily spiritual practice is like priming the pump of consciousness so it flows in abundance. Yoga is a way in which we can choose to practice walking on the Earth, neither stepping sheepishly nor too aggressively. Yoga is a way we can choose to practice balance in relationship, open to a co-creative, fluid, win-win experience that resonates inwardly and feels harmonious outwardly.
As you move through this holiday season, see the exchanges you have with people, the urge to spend money or stay up too late, the compulsion to overeat or eat that which you know is not healthy for you, as opportunities to practice yoga. By opening to the fullness of life and keeping sukha and stira in mind, you can find balance and practice yoga, even in busy times.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current show, “Yoga in the Nightclub”, brings forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.