As Canada Day approaches I’ve been thinking about how Canadians are collectively known as peaceful, nice people, who have adopted a cultural mosaic as a model for the country. Sounds quite yogic if you ask me! In this blog I’d like to attempt to put side by side... Canada and yoga from my perspective.
When yoga is practiced authentically it is an exercise prescription for health, which nurtures a state of homeostasis for the body, mind and soul. In an ancient book that describes yoga philosophy called, ‘Yoga Sutras,’ the author Patanjali states, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” This indicates that removing an agitation from the mind, such as pain from an injury, will clear away distractions leading to a harmonious state of being with ourselves, with others and with the cosmos. If yoga is to be authentic it needs to be practiced in a way that can get rid of the physical, mental and emotional aches and pains so that the day... well... just feels better, and this will have a ripple effect on others releasing positive vibes to the universe.
So the objective of yoga is to feel good, which leads to a positive attitude. Then it’s easy to be kind to others, and it’s easy to recognize our true calling, which is to be our brother's (or sister’s) keeper. I often mention to my students the only thing that matters in class is to get better. If you’ve been to class you’ve heard me say, “The only thing that matter is you leave the studio better than when you arrived.” If yoga students go home and describe to their family and friends the new contortion they tried but got hurt doing it, family members and friends are likely to say, “Why did you do that anyway?” However, if students go home and are feeling really good because the yoga was appropriately prescribed according to their ability, family and friends will likely notice the positive change in mood and say, “You really need to keep doing that yoga thing!” It is true then, yoga can make you a nicer person. Sounds pretty Canadian to me.
There’s this concept in Patajali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ called Ahimsa. It means non-harming. This is the first principle of ethics, or Yamas, and it’s the starting point for yoga practice. Ahimsa means not harming yourself, as sometimes we are our own worst enemy. It means not harming others, by learning to transcend our ego in yoga practice so that we can identify with another point of view and not become stuck in some self-righteous but flawed ideology. It also means to be a peaceful person. Again sounds pretty Canadian eh?
Historically, thousands of years ago, there was a great migration of peoples from all over the world to the Indus Valley. In this time an acceptance of differing ideologies, philosophies and religious thinking was widespread. An exchange of ideas sparked a spiritual evolution, and iconic religious figures were born at this time. It was truly a great cultural mosaic.
To me, this seems to be the current state of Canada. As Canadians, if we can all understand our unique differences, and love each other for them, we are practicing yoga. Namaste is a Sanskrit term used as a greeting in yoga class and in Indian culture, which means, ‘I honour the spark of divinity with you.’ I think this is essence of being Canadian. Maybe that’s why so many others in the world describe Canadians as nice, peaceful and accepting people. Happy Canada Day!