Atmanivedana

One of the lessons learned by Axis YTT students is that people find Yoga through a variety of paths. This student found Yoga through meditation. And when experimenting with the niyama, atmanivedana (or Ishvarapranidhana) the existence of both positive and negative aspects of any chosen path were evident in the experiment.

Atmanivedana: Intro

My first experiment is focused on Atmanivedana. Atmanivedana is the concept of offering one’s life to god. I decided on this concept because I feel this is the reason why I began yoga and all of my life’s choices and crazy turns have led me to realize that this is the path for me. I have begun to realize over the past 10 years or so that this is an extremely difficult decision to make and to stick with. I have had multiple periods of great insight and constant practice overlapped with months of self loathing and pity. However, even in my darkest moments there is something or someone inside telling me that the right choice is to surrender to god and everything will be ok even when it appears that all of life’s normal structures that you have built up around you begin to crumble after a decade of construction. It is also quite relieving to find that they are not very missed.

I entered into yoga through meditation and a strong need to relinquish pain I was feeling as a teenager. I had a very sick girlfriend and lost multiple friends to drunk driving and drugs and my mind was at a very fragile state. I was lucky enough to realize this and found some great people to lead me to Zen meditation. The structure and intensity was a lot for a sixteen year old with no religious background of any kind and the need for long sittings was nearly impossible for me even though I was a very athletic hockey player at the time. The sittings were so intense that I could not even focus on meditation. Up to then I had never been able to even sit cross legged. I endured the pain for a few years not even knowing that there was a way for relief and there where systems designed for this very problem. Much of my practice was on my own, through books and lectures, because the sittings at the Zen center were just too much. Luckily one day I met Candess and she introduced me to asana practice.

Atmanivedana: Experiment Design

I have had an off and on mediation practice for many years now. When I begin meditating I dive fully into it and try to meld it into every aspect of my everyday life, or fully surrender to god. When I am off, I am completely off with little attention paid to this crucial aspect to existence. In order to help me stay more focused and remain on the path I believe having multiple different practices  will ensure I can remain in the proper state of mind for longer, and the addition of a daily asana practice in conjunction with mediations would be a great asset and is the focus of my experiment. Another beneficial aspect to adding a daily asana practice is the fact that it will greatly help with the quality of my mediations because I will not be in as much pain.

To complete this experiment I will add a one hour asana practice every morning before my meditation or pranyama. My asana practice will begin with a joint opening series, and then followed by multiple sun salutations that increase in intensity. I will finish with some twists and inversions – mainly headstand and shoulder stand. I will then take a short savasana before my normal mediation practices.  I will keep a journal and make notes every few hours on the level of attentiveness I feel I give to a particular task. I do not have time to break down everything I do but will try to record my attentiveness for physical labor like tasks as well as some detail about relationships and general well-being. I will also make note of the pain level or length of time that I can meditate pain free seated in the cross legged position.

Atmanivedana: Observations

I did not expect a big change from the few weeks of this experiment but I was wrong. There were lots of positives and lots of negatives that came from adding a daily asana practice at this time in my life. Some of the obvious positive benefits that came from this are the physical. I feel better all the time, everyday tasks are much easier, and it has made my physical labor type job much smoother with less pain and aches at the end of the day. I have also been able to increase my meditations by 5 min everyday with no pain and even longer with minimal discomfort.

I added the asana practice with the intention of it being an extension of my meditations and with the hopes that this would extend into other aspects of my everyday life. I have noticed much greater care and just more detail and clarity in some everyday tasks. I now find caring for my bonsai trees and plants, cleaning the house, and petting the dog can be just as rewarding as the big sale at work. I guess what I have noticed is a slow down almost and if I go into a task with the intention of having the asana mindset then the task itself is worthwhile and not just a means to an end. This seems to happen more easily with physical labor tasks and I now find much more enjoyment in that work. I just wish I could experience that with all parts of life.

I have also noticed a positive change in most relationships around me. I am more open and accepting it seems like and just kind of let them be themselves. I have struggled with this my whole life, always needing to control others. I find the openness can lead to a much deeper and exciting place. I have also noticed though that some people really do not want anything to do with me whatsoever anymore but I have realized that that is ok.

Atmanivedana: The Unexpected

I guess you cannot have the good without the bad, however. I feel it important to point out some of these details because I have noticed it multiple times over the past ten years anytime I get very serious about my practice and a shift is occurring in my life.  There is almost a force that brings on some amazing challenges once you begin this path and it has forced me to stop multiple times. I do not want to dive too deeply into this but it is beginning to get to me a bit because it seems to be part of an endless cycle these past ten years. My life was peachy three weeks ago before I began this experiment and began meditating a lot more and trying to surrender to god in every aspect of my life. In the past three weeks my wife was hospitalized and near death, my dog was poisoned by the neighbor whom is now in jail, both my car and my wife’s car have broken down, I passed a bladder stone and had three days of urinary issues, I had the flu, multiple little annoying items lost or breaking down including my computer crashing shortly before finishing this paper, this is the second draft and I will most likely not get certified as an instructor due to some of these issues. I can go on.

Atmanivedana: Conclusion

I do believe there is much more going on here and this is not a direct result of the experiment and would never want to discourage people from beginning this path based on these results. These three weeks have almost allowed me to create some space between me and these issues and see that it is almost comical, albeit heart wrenching. I have realized that it is beyond me and is not there to punish me but to perhaps teach me. This is just something that I need to get through this time and I feel that I chose this yoga intensive mainly for that reason and this will stay with me forever whether I get certified or not. I am going to continue my daily asana practice and have to say that this experiment was exceptionally enlightening.

SATYA

This Axis YTT student gives an insightful interpretation of the yama satya (truthfulness) during the yama/niyama experiment. Students apply a chosen yama (restraint) or niyama (observance) to their lives to better understand their role in Yoga.

SATYA: INTRODUCTION

When the time came to choose a yama or niyama, I decided I would allow my choice to choose me.  I ended up in the satya or truthfulness group.  Initially, I thought this experiment would give me the opportunity to give my supervisor a piece of my mind.  However, the more I studied, the more I began to understand the nature of satya and its careful placement amongst the yamas or restraints.    Satya refers to considering my thoughts, words, and actions so that they do the least harm and the most good.  I realized that I would have to practice restraint from action or, at best, practice filtering such that my thoughts, words, and actions are in alignment with ahimsa, or non-harming.  My experiment would have to involve a great deal more observation and reflection than I originally thought. Therefore, rather than practicing truthfulness, I would have to practice restraint from indulging in my supposed “truth.”

SATYA: DESIGN

Observation

I feel irritated and frustrated at work and desire to feel more at ease during the workday.

Hypothesis

If I memorize the Gayatri Mantra and chant it for 15 minutes at the beginning of my day and at the end of my work day, then I will feel more at ease and less frustrated at the end of my work day.

Method

For one work week (5 days), I will chant the Gayatri Mantra for 15 minutes at the beginning of the work day and at the end of the work day for 15 minutes.  At the end of each day, I will reflect upon the day and provide one line to summarize my experience.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER16, 2012

  • I spent 30 minutes memorizing the Sanskrit translation of the mantra.
  • I spent 15 minutes chanting the mantra.
  • I spent 15 minutes meditating on the words and significance of the mantra as it applies to satya.

SATYA: REFELCTIONS

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012

  • I feel like I have to lie to myself to keep from speaking my feelings.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

  • If the Supreme Self who holds the Supreme Truth and resides in me has already mastered satya, why is it so difficult for me?

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2012

  • I avoided discussions that involve input of my opinions and preferences.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

  • Difficult to reflect on my judgments and send them out into the world as such.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

  • It is a burden to try to know and speak Truth.