Tag Archives: mental-health

Equanimity

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The aim of yoga is to cease the movement or turning of the mind as Patanjali suggests in the 2nd sutra of his Yoga Sutras. So if through yoga asana, meditation and pranayama the practitioner achieves this cessation of mental fluctuation – what then?

The stillness of the mind quite possibly creates the conditions for equanimity. A very english yogi likes this word. It means composure and evenness of temper regardless of the situation.

This state of being is perfectly symbolised in a quote that the ‘yogi heard recently. He thinks it’s Tibetan. It goes like this:

“If something is broken, why worry if it can be fixed? If something is broken and it can’t be fixed, why worry?”

and just the other day, the Yogi was re-reading a well known poem by Kipling which seems to sum up this sense of equanimity:

If by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!

Equanimity comes from yoga practice – the more you get on the mat and practice asana; the more your cittas stop vritting and the more likely you are to have a sense of equanimity.

Life throws us plenty of challenges to this. You walk in to your office and your work mates are arguing, your boss is shouting at you, your car broke down, another driver cut you up, you didnt get the job you had placed all you energy and hope for. There are so many scenarios in the play of life that one is tempted to think that these things are thrown into your path to test your much treasured and worked for equanimity. Much treasured because it is hard in this world to achieve this; and possibly the only way to get this is to work hard, turning up on the mat practicising asana and living yoga off the mat as much as possible.

A very english yogi knows that Kipling is a bit dated, and recognises that it’s written from a father to a son – but he thinks that it has resonance over the years and across generations and gender.

Here’s to your equanimity!

Procrastination busters

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Just occasionally, Lancashire Yogi finds that for some reason, he simply can’t be bothered with a yoga practice. He calls this ‘can’t be bothered’ state, procrastination. He umms and he ahhs, and he simply lolls about.

Sometimes this is fine – there’s a time for everything, and he has learned from experience that sometimes it’s worth just luxuriating in this state. But all too often he realises that it’s the play of the gunas. In particular this inertia is the play of ‘tamas’ – a lethargic state, where he lolls in the trough of inaction, and inertia.

When he realises this (and it gets quicker each time), Lancashire Yogi has a number of procrastination busters to nudge him back on the path. He shares these with you in the spirit of helpfulness:

No.1 : think of the benefits that you will bring to others if you do your practice: for Lancashire Yogi he is told he is a calmer, friendlier, happier, kinder, more productive type of person. That’s got to help others in the long run.

No.2 : start with the aim of doing 5 minutes of an asana and see where it takes you!: Lancashire Yogi has found that his mind tends to think “oh goodness, a full hour of yoga”, and slumps into a slough of despond.  He knows he can trick his monkey mind by starting a 5 minute sun salutation or similar, and all of a sudden he find his body has taken over and he’s off on his hourly practice. Little by little you can rebuild a fuller practice. It’s a bit like climbing the ropes in the gym at school. Do you remember that? One hand over the other, pulling yourself slowly, hand by hand, up the rope, until you get to the top and realise that lo and behold, you have climbed a rope in it’s entirety.

No.3 : pick an animal asana and feel into it and see where it takes you!: Lancashire Yogi is barking mad half the time, and that’s because he’ll get into downward facing dog, and then walk around the house, really being a dog. By the time he gets to the fireplace where he goes into upward facing dog, he’s ready for a full round of practice. You can come back to your humanity by being an animal. Just search in a search engine for animal asanas – or go back to your books to find them. If you can remember one, just give it a go. Mrs Lancashire Yogi likes ‘cat’, Lancashire Yogi likes downward facing dog, and the Druid loves the spitting cobra. There are quite a few – and even just searching for them can shift your state back to the mat.

No.4 : start breathing – fully, deeply, with love and enthusiasm! : Lancashire Yogi finds that a few full, deep breaths, preceeded by the exhalation of stale air really enables him to start afresh. It livens him up and energises him.  Lancashire Yogi has taught breathing exercises and he has also reported on this elsewhere.  Here are some tips: https://lancashireyogi.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/breathe-but-with-care/

No.5 : trick & tease your body & mind back on the path by doing another form of yoga:  We all know that yoga is not just the asanas (postures). It’s meditation, chanting, breathing, etc.  But there are other forms of yoga too. The word ‘yoga’ is sometimes translated as union, or ‘yoking’. Lancashire Yogi likes the concept of integration and union. Therefore any activity that is guaranteed to help you integrate body and mind, and enable you to get back to who you are has to be good.  He will often go on a walk, have a swim, run, cycle or call up  a friend to walk and talk. If he’s by himself he’ll pick up a jump rope and do some skipping. Now that really shifts your conciousness. If you think skipping is easy – give it a go!  By the time he is back at his mat, he is ready for some stretching, which then becomes an extended yoga practice.

No.6 : pick up ‘n read Iyengar Light on Yoga or Desikachar Heart of Yoga, or How yoga works by Geshe Roach: these are Lancashire Yogi’s favourites and they are the yoga books that inspire him, but they could be any book that intellectually or emotionally pricks you to get on the mat and start practicising. It works like this. Lancashire Yogi picks up a book and flicks to a page. He sees Mr Iyengyar or Mr Desikachar in an asana, or he reads an insight or quote and it sparks off a thought. In Geshe Michael Roach’s book ‘How Yoga Works’ there is so much insight that you are nearly pushed back on the path of yoga and dharma practice! Minutes later Lancashire Yogi is on the mat trying out the asana, or testing what he has read.  The book does not necessarily have to be about yoga – as long as it inspires you to nudge back on the mat.

No.7: shift your state by spinning like a dervish, a child or a tibetan : Lancashire Yogi is a great fan of spinning. Not spinning on a bike (although thats good), but simply just spinning round and round. If it’s good enough for a sufi dervish, or a tibetan yoga practitioner, or even,  heck, if it’s good enough for a child….it’s got to be worth trying. Lancashire Yogi has written about spinning (a bit) – https://lancashireyogi.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/spinning-not-staying-still/. He always starts his yoga practice with a spin – it seems to whirl him into the ideal place to practice.

No. 8: find a bit of clutter to tidy up: Lancashire Yogi isn’t obsessive about clearing and tidying up clutter, but he thinks his Dad’s view that “untidy house is the sign of an untidy mind” has an element of truth. He has written about clutter clearing here.  What he does know that if there is a bit of untidiness or clutter somewhere, and if he starts tidying it, he notices a shift in his mind and body and when he’s finished that bit of tidying he finds himself back on the mat. There’s something good (to Lancashire Yogi) about a decluttered living and practicising space….

No. 9: tend to your plants, pets and people: strangely, Lancashire Yogi finds that when you start tending to your plants through weeding, or nurturing seedlings, or when you groom the family pet, or help your people – family or friends it seems to help you shift in conciousness.  You seem to shift from self-absorbed inertia to a more energised state where you feel like you can get back on the mat. Lancashire Yogi’s philosophical friends say that a friend in need – is a friend indeed, and they say that helping and tending to plants, pets and people is part of the whole yoga thing anyway and by helping plants, pets and people, you are are doing yoga. Of course, helping strangers can be equally powerful too. It’s just that if you are procrastinating or inert – you’re more likely to be around your family and friends (if they haven’t run a mile from your blackhole like inertia),  but the principle applies just the same.

No. 10. put on some music and groove to it: it’s amazing how music can transform the moment, our emotions, our sense of self, and our ‘state’.  Lancashire Yogi plays a few instruments and really appreciates how musicians squeeze out pure energy, love, joy and all the other emotions possible out of their instruments. Even more amazing is when a few musos get together and create a sound that simply transports the listener out of one state and into a new one.  He loves it that the music starts and everyone just gets up and dances to it.  To each their own when it comes to music – but simply just putting on a track or an album and listening can change your state immediately. If it’s boogie, you’ll be dancing out the room and onto the mat; if its reflective you’ll be getting ready for some meditation. Of course, if you can play an instrument – that is an alternative too. Lancashire Yogi has found that when he has a sing along with Mrs Lancashire Yogi or his pals – it shifts the mindset and he can get down to yoga business once he’s blown the cobwebs away.

Lancashire Yogi has other tricks to break the procrastination phase. There are plenty more,  but these are his most successfull strategies for getting out of inertia and getting back on the mat. Somehow they seem to enrichen his life too. Occasionally he gets told that they seem to work for others too, and not just for yoga practice but in other areas of life ….

If you have any tricks or tips to beat the inertia of procrastination please feel free to share yours.  You can post them here on the Lancashire Yogi blog, in reply, or you can tweet them via Lancashire Yogi’s friend: @thinkadelic.

Namaste

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