Sunday, May 12, 2013

Five things I learned in yoga, that mom taught me first

My mother is a yogi and she doesn't even know it. I still haven't convinced her to take a single Yoga class, other than with me in our living room, but she's a yogi nonetheless. She is one of those peaceful, wise and evolved souls that didn't need years and years of asana practice to come to find the peace we seek through the yoga practice. I did not inherit her unwavering patience or her gentle approach towards life but I did receive many amazing teachings from her as a child. Like most adolescents, I rebelled against her, though luckily the seeds she planted never got washed away by the storm of my tumultuous teen years. In honor of Mother's Day I've made a list of five things I learned from yogic studies, that my mom taught me first.

1) "Do Your Practice and All is Coming"- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Growing up we all had that one hobby that our mother made us practice. For my sister it was shooting hoops. For me, it was singing. I decided around age 17 I had no chance of becoming "famous" and so I quit altogether, shortly after moving to NYC and deciding majoring in Theater at Columbia would be a waste of time. It broke my mom's heart. Who knows...maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong but certainly continuing to practice, would have shown me the way in the end right? As yogis we know that a daily, steady practice is required for growth and improvement no matter what craft we are honing.

2) "aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah" (When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s birth comes) - Yoga Sutra II.39. As a kid, my mom used to always tell me I was too acquisitive, and she was right! I wanted everything I saw on TV, everything my sister had, everything my friends had. I was blessed to have all my needs met as a child but doubly blessed to have a mother who didn't allow me to get caught up in excessive materialism. She didn't buy into the American concept that "more is more" or buy particular brands of clothing because they were status symbols. As a self-conscious high schooler, I was more interested in impressing my friends than my mom's advice. Aparigraha is the 5th yama or ethical code in for us yogis and means non-hoarding or non-greed. Take only what you need- no more, no less and let go of excessive attachments to material things.  

3) “…Association with fools as with an enemy is always (productive of pain)….Therefore, even as the moon follows the path of the constellations one should follow the wise, the intelligent, the learned, the much enduring, the dutiful, the noble. (Sukkhavagga: 11&12)." I always had many groups of friends growing up and some of them were not exactly my mom's cup of tea. She's never heard of the term Satsang, but she's wise enough to know that who you associate with can change who you are for the better or worse, so choose your friends wisely.

4) "sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsarga"  (Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind, the mind naturally begins toward the divine, and away from the external, physical world.) - Yoga Sutra II.40. My mom never let us have a TV in our bedrooms as kids. She wasn't super strict about what we watched, but we had enough sense not to watch anything violent, vulgar, or offensive in the living room when mom could walk in at any moment. As she often said, "garbage in garbage out". As an aspiring yoga, I do my best now to only watch uplifting, informative, or at least neutral programming on television though mom, I'm ashamed to admit I watched the first 3 seasons of Jersey Shore in their entirety.

5) "Ishvara-pranidhana" or living with your life as an offering to the divine is the last of the 5 niyamas and in my opinion, the most important. My mom told me that when she was in her early teens, she used to visit the convent regularly and actually thought becoming a nun would be pretty cool. Her intense interest in religion and morality is apparent in the way she raised us. She's not a "Bible thumper" or anything like that; in fact, she's quite liberal in her social beliefs and accepting of other religions and cultures. During my childhood she was constantly weaving a bit of scripture in when scolding us and making sure we said Grace before dinner, even if we just rushed through it so we could scarf down our food and get back to watching TV (of course no TV was allowed on at the dinner table!). God had a central place in our daily routines and her raising me in this way certainly was an early inspiration towards following the Bhakti Path, or path of devotion.

I am not able to be with my mom this Mother's Day because of work but inside, she is with me always. Mom, my first yoga teacher and my best friend. I love you beyond words. Happy Mother's Day!