The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

About September 24, 2009

Bio. Writer, musician and yoga teacher Holly Meyers lives in DC and is a native of the area.  As a youth, she was deeply fascinated with the connections among cultural and spiritual traditions.  After decades of distraction and downright derailment from that path, Holly trudged through life’s obstacles (aka opportunities), ultimately returning to her childhood inspiration.  Today, her heart’s desire is to serve others by sharing life experiences, unifying her diverse influences and passing-on healthy practices.  She can be reached at hmeyers65@yahoo.com.

Welcome. The Urban Yoga Den invites you to explore:

  • the Eight Limbs as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras;
  • the six branches of Integral Yoga;
  • inter-faith links among spiritual traditions;
  • as well as tips, tools and resources for yoga and meditation practice.

My hope is to pass on the resources and tools that have been so generously shared with me along the way.  Whether online, in my teaching space or at another venue, the Urban Yoga Den’s “portable” energy is always inviting and cozy.  Thanks for visiting!

Motivation. It’s all yoga.

I often hear people exclaim with frustration (and a bit of self-damnation), “I’m not doing enough yoga!”  Perhaps they’re not attending as many yoga classes as usual, so they feel disturbance in the body and/or mind.

But, what does “doing enough yoga” mean?

Because yoga is much more than asana practice, I believe we are doing more than we realize.  Chances are, if we’re aware enough to notice a difference – if we care that our shoulders are slumping, our work days are unfocused or our relationships are strained – we are, indeed, doing enough.

In my opinion, it’s all yoga.  If we live with sincere intention, a willingness to grow and an awareness of our small part in the big picture, we are “doing yoga.”

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (the ancient scriptures of Raja Yoga, or, the science of the mind), the goal of yoga is to free the mind of distraction.  Our asana practice is a small part of this – there are seven additional limbs described in the Sutras, and practicing these limbs is a process of developing that distraction-free mind.  A process!  What a relief.  A peaceful mind does not happen overnight.

The eight limbs include: Yama (abstinence), Niyama (observance), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (oneness, liberation).  We cycle through these limbs in patient and gradual development – it’s progress, not perfection.  We take one step forward, two steps back at times.  By starting with the ethical, transitioning through the physical and then deepening through the mental, we are eventually liberated.

In this case, if we are “doing enough yoga,” we are healthy, we feel serene and life is effortless.  Kind of like an athlete in “The Zone.”

I am grateful that, when choosing a Yoga Teacher Training, I chose to do a 4-week Ashram immersion at the Integral Yoga Academy in VA.  Whereas the Sutras’ Eight Limbs explore the mind, Integral Yoga’s six branches address the entire life of an individual.  Founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda, the Integral Yoga (IY) approach includes: Hatha (physical development), Raja (which, as within the Eight Limbs, includes ethics and philosophy), Bhakti (devotion to, service to and love of a higher power), Karma (acts of selfless service), Jnana (self-analysis and psychology) and Japa (mantra repetition).  IY is an ideological synthesis for the development of the whole person.

Again, lots of opportunities to “do yoga” – with the IY approach, we access the Eight Limbs’ health, serenity and bliss…and live responsibly in the world.

Sutra 2.28 says, “By practice of the limbs, impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.”  This is a promise, and reminds me of the third line of the old classic Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Yoga’s process leads to discriminative discernment.  What a gift!

So, the next time you are about to chastise yourself for not doing enough yoga, take a discerning pause to remember the process of yoga’s Eight Limbs and the synthesis of Integral Yoga’s six branches.  Then ask yourself, “Was I of service to someone today (Karma Yoga)?  Did I avoid harmful actions (Limb #1, Yama)?  Did I pray to some higher power (Bhakti Yoga)?  Did I practice deep breathing (Limb #4, Pranayama)?  Were my actions ethical (Raja Yoga)?  Did I ponder my purpose in life (Jnana Yoga)?”  And so on.

My guess is, you are doing more yoga than you think.

The physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of practicing the Eight Limbs and/or Integral Yoga are immense.  So give yourself credit for living with good intention, being aware of the world around you and taking time to connect with the universe.  It’s all yoga.

Inspirations.  Infinite gratitude for my teachers:

Seane Corn; Hala Khouri; Max Strom; Ricky Tran; Amy Barnes; Corrine Champigny; Kimberly Wilson; Megan Davis; Leah Kalinosky; Andrea Franchini; Meade Andrews; Sumi Komo; Dr. Steven Weiss; Dr. Philip Bahnson; Dr. John Douillard; Swami Satchidananda; Yogi Bhajan; Mom; and other “gurus” of many guises along the way.