Applied Yoga Philosophy


In this paper you will learn how the classical text of Ramayana has influenced my life and my yoga practice. I will discuss the core principles and/or teachings of this text with regard to historical context and to the contemporary application of it today. I will also describe how the teachings in this text have influenced my role as a Yoga Therapist and how it is applicable to my clients.  Ramayana gives insights into how to live our various dharma’s and ethical standards at times of mental turmoil. It teaches us lessons of mortality and is a guide for righteous living. Ramayana inspires old and young and cuts across all barriers such as income levels, cultures and religions from around the world. The Ramayana story retold by William Buck is one that speaks to me. (Buck, 1976)

Ramayana was originally written in Sanskrit in the tradition of Vedas. The story is about the romance of Rama and the Court and the struggle of good over evil. It contains twenty-four thousand couplets (verses). These verses were written in thirty-two syllable meters called sloka (two line verses with sixteen syllables each). The meter is called anustup, chapters are called sargas and books are called kandas (of which there are seven). Each phrase of the story is connected to the next phase. This text dates back to 880,000 BCE (before Common Era or Christian Era). (Anonymous, “Ancient World History”)

The most important lesson that Ramayana teaches us is the relationship between Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Ultimately we are striving for Moksha and if we follow our Dharma we will obtain Moksha however at times Artha and Kama muddy our ways as we lean toward excess or scarcity in these categories rather than defining what is enough for us to fulfill our Dharma. I love how Rod Stryker describes the four desires. He says: Dharma in simple terms is the drive to fulfill your potential, you might also think of it as your duty (daughter, sister, etc.); Artha refers to material resources that will help you fulfill your dharma; Kama is the desire for pleasures of all kinds and Moksha is the longing for liberation and true freedom. (Stryker, 2011, pp. 20-23)

Ramayana is relevant more than ever in our modern society. Ramayana can be used as a set of values or a code of conduct in how to love our individual life, our family life, our career and how to connect with others in society. The young can learn from their mentors/ elders about wisdom in practicing the lessons taught in Ramayana. Currently in our society I see an undertone of solitary accomplishments being a metric of success. Success equated to worthiness, yet we are born worthy and unity is success. Relationships are being based on economy and greed instead of love, honesty and loyalty. Think of your hand for a moment. What if each finger did its own thing? How much can you accomplish with one finger? When all five units work together what can you accomplish then? We have teens who don’t heed parental advice and parents that aren’t concerned with their teen’s future. We have students that don’t respect teachers and teachers who don’t impart wisdom to students. We are one.  We breathe the same air, drink the same water and put our pants on the same way. Unity is diversity. We must all do our own work to understand ourselves better to be at peace for the world to be at peace.  One of my character strengths is the love of learning. I remind myself every day to take my acquired book knowledge and put it into practical knowledge to live by. “Ramayana is more than just a story. It assimilates principles of science and psychology, within its broader fold of spirituality and wisdom and this affords an all-inclusive solution.” –Dr. Ramesh Kumar Gupta

 How do we preserve our values? We are busy working hard to achieve individual success through greed and disregard for family, spouses, friendships, and fortunes. We have lost sight of what is truly important; unity, connection, loyalty, family, higher power, purpose and love. “Spirituality destroys narrow mindedness and confers unity, cooperation and universal peace.” ~Sai Darshan Pressures to perform deteriorate our life.  Without connection and spirituality we end up losing ourselves and our happiness. (Gupta)

Rama said in the second battle episode of the siege of Lanka: Vibhishanal! Self-confidence is my chariot and my courage and patience are its wheels. Truth and character is my flag while my strength, knowledge and self-control and goodwill are the four horses of my chariot. Forgiveness and uniform behavior are the ropes used to tie these horses. Faith in God is my charioteer while contentment and charity is my sword and axe respectively. My principles are my arrows. Devotion to the Brahmana’s and to my preceptor is my impenetrable amour. What other means of victory can one crave for? (Bhanot, 1992, p. 12)

My life and work is filled with love and through the life lessons of Ramayana. I can inspire myself and others to heal through movement. The fourteen lessons that Ramayana teaches us and I apply in my profession as a Yoga Therapist are:

If I come back to my soul’s dharma code I can relinquish my excess of wants in materialism and sense pleasures. I have dharmas or duties to carry out through other roles such as being a wife, daughter, friend, aunt, Yoga Therapist etc. Working through my four desires and developing clarity on my soul’s dharma code has helped me stay grounded as a Yoga Therapist while guiding my clients in finding clarity for themselves.

 Ramayana’s lesson of being married to one partner in our lifetime is built on long term meaningful relationships that are loyal and respectful of both parties. I like this quote by Kabbalah “We all come to this world as half a soul, we stumble about in this existence, trying other halves, preparing for the day when we will meet our kindred spirit. That’s when life really begins, that’s when it picks up speed and starts to flow and we can cast off. But we can’t meet that kindred spirit unless we discover our mission in life first.” It reminds me to do my work so others can do their work as well. Relationships are not perfect. They require growth, forgiveness and compassion especially after the affinity fades and the relationship changes into something that isn’t as new.  Relationships are a living moving piece of art that is always seeking balance and harmony. By having boundaries for myself and as a Yoga Therapist it allows me to have compassion and empathy. Happiness is obtained from the inside not from the outside.

If we take our time and speak our truth we are keeping our promises and honoring ourselves and others. As a Yoga Therapist I use my tools from Marshal Rosenberg (Psychologist and creator of nonviolent communication) and speak in a style that is non-violent and honor the profession and me. This maybe at times saying “I don’t know, I’m struggling with that myself, I feel this professional would be more helpful, I can’t fix but I can guide you to finding a more comfortable space if you are willing to do the work.”

It is my duty as a pioneer in this field to be respectful of the client in front of me, to my peers and those coming behind me. Reminding myself of my own detachment challenges without disappointment. Reminding myself to stay in a professional role rather than a friendship role with my clients so that they we can detach as a celebration of how far they have come without disappointment.

Not to listen to pointless and useless stories of my life especially stories that are vicious. It reminds me that my personality or way of healing my not be right for everyone and it is okay to excuse myself from a relationship with a client if I feel it isn’t providing healing for the client and a strain on my energy level. There are many needing guidance.

Not to accept valuable goods or presents from anyone, as this does the service of Yoga Therapy an injustice. A fair wage for the session provided is enough. I always tell my clients the greatest gift you can give me is to first heal yourself and then share your story, tell others about this service and then invite them to start their work.

Sometimes things come to you in disguise and to try and not get swayed by suspect attractions. Follow my gut and trust my personal intuition. As a Yoga Therapist I can always ask curious questions to understand things better and to see if what I’m feeling is client’s truth.

To always speak mindfully and to think before I speak sometimes my findings as a Yoga Therapist should be just that; my findings. My words could cause the client harm. They don’t need to know all of my assessment findings right from the start as they are usually coming to me wounded from a trauma of some sort. I want to create a trust, a safe place emotionally and physically- then I guide them through layers of self-discovering and healing as they are ready and ask for the knowledge and specifics.

All people have value and deserve to be treated fairly. No one deserves to be part of a violent act whether that is verbal or physical or be the subject of cruelty or bullying behavior. As a Yoga therapist I always lay out the expectations of what I agree to bring to each session and what I ask my client to bring to each session. It sets a boundary and a tone of what to expect during our times together.

My life and work is filled with love that moves people to heal; I am light in a dark world. I believe love exceeds all barriers. As a Yoga Therapist (I ask first) I always give my clients a hug on the way out. Hugs are healing and so many times I am the only loving touch they received all day. Vitamin L (love) is what will heal the world.

As a Yoga Therapist I am only their guide on this great adventure of theirs. They have to do all the work. I’m humbled and honored that they chose me to guide them.

We are wired for connection, belonging and friendships. As a Yoga Therapist I create times where there is a sense of community at the studio. A place where like-minded individuals can go, belong and friendships can be made. The connections here have a major impact on our local community.

Those that have the biggest bark, the toughest exterior, the souls that hurt others are the ones that need help the most. I pray daily for strength to be given to me, for the wisdom to ask the right question that will help them heal. On the inside they want love, connection and belonging more than anyone.

At times I have to jump into the middle of a fire to set a higher standard. As a Yoga Therapist I hold myself to high standards, others say they are impossible standards. As a teacher I guide my clients to lean into their fears to find calm waters and to set a standard for themselves and role model it to others.

 

References

Ancient World History. (2012, July 22). Retrieved October 19, 2015.

 

Bhanot, T. (Ed.). (1992). Ramayana: Part 9: Battle episode 2. (p. 12). Nai Sarak, Delhi: Dreamland Publications.

 

Buck, W. (1976). Ramayana: King Rama’s way (35th ed.). Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

 

Gupta, R. (2011, April 4). Ramayan for our daily lives – The Times of India. Retrieved October 19, 2015.

 

Stryker, R. (2011). For the purpose of the soul. In The four desires: Creating a life of purpose, happiness, prosperity, and freedom (pp. 20-23). New York: Delacorte Press.

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