Burning zeal in practice, self-study and study of scriptures, and surrender to God are the acts of yoga.
Burning zeal is a phrase that conjures up images of Olympic athletes and animal rights protestors. It seems out of place in the serene setting of yoga at first. After a few good asana classes, the burning of yoga is apparent. I sweat more holding still in Virahabdrasana II than I ever have while jogging. It’s more than just body heat though. During a steady practice my focus is ignited. I feel a zeal from within and my consciousness is heightened. Self-awareness is something we can only grasp at because the world is constantly changing around us. When tapas takes hold, I feel at one with my surroundings and am only concerned with the present.
I feel these things and my self-study (svadyaya) allows me to savor it. I can’t go around feeling at peace with the universe all the time. Instead I remind myself that I’m perpetually connected to the energy of life and even when I feel out of control I know that connection remains. Of course, this is all in theory. The next time I’m stressed about money or time don’t ask me to meditate – I’ll laugh right in your face. Even Iyengar says, “this wandering is merely a sign of a fluctuating consciousness, which may remain a problem even for evolved souls.”
I’ll be honest, the phrase “surrender to God” ruffles my agnostic tail-feathers a little. My parochial upbringing in the Mid-South hasn’t fully worn off. Reverend Cheney and I parted on good terms after about 2 months of confirmation classes in the early 90s. I uncomfortably existed by obeying the values of my elders and repressing my need to Question Everything. The Manouso Manos workshop in St. Mary’s Parrish Hall punctuated my non-Christianity in a palliative way. It was curative the same way pulling off a band-aid can be. A little painful, but necessary.
These days, my personal understanding of Brahman/God is abstract at best. Put simply, all living creatures are connected by the same energy source or “light”. I feel that energy source inside of me and I believe I feel it in other creatures, including humans. We are all the same and yet we are only responsible for ourselves. I’m an introvert and tend toward fatalistic solipsism at times but I’m certain that my actions affect other people. So call it karma, feng shui, The Golden Rule, or whatever – I see a balancing force in nature that is best summed up by Fight Club. Or Idiocracy. (Depends on my mood.)
When I consider surrender, I see myself acknowledging the light within me and coming to terms with my insignificance. My ego was crippled at an early age so insignificance is a feeling I’m familiar with. Finding the light is my challenge. The comfort and serenity I’ve found just knowing the light is there is immeasurable. I have faith in myself for the first time in my life. Right now, my translation of tapah svadhyaya Isvarapranidhanani kriyayogah is Self-discipline, Self-study and Self-Surrender are yoga in action.
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