Aparigraha is the concept of detaching – practicing non possessiveness, non-grasping and non-greediness. It is the idea that once you are attached to anything - it then has control over you and your happiness. Whether you are attached to your yoga mat, your car, your job, your partner, or your life – the fear of losing that thing/person/role alters the way you behave and your reactions to things. Similarly being attached to achieving or gaining possession of something really alters your reality. Whether it is weight loss, your ‘soul mate’, a certain house etc – it is all a false belief that external ideas/things/people can make you happy.
I remember for a long time I was quite attached to ‘landing’ scorpion. It wasn’t until I was working with a mantra ‘does this make me a better person’ that I realised how un-important scorpion was. (I know its ridiculous right! But I am human and it is easy to get wrapped up in the mind and ego). I realised Scorpion doesn’t make me a better person or even a better yoga teacher at all. The irony of the situation was that as soon as I stopped attaching to being able to achieve the pose I could do it every time with little effort. The attachment was hindering me, rather than helping.
In today’s society we are very attached to things and people. But I think perhaps even more concerning is our attachment to labels. Too quickly we are so eager to define ourselves as our job title, pay packet, our marital status, our family, our house, and more…. But this too is an attachment. It’s grasping at an idea that by labelling yourself as a certain thing you are something particular. You are not this. You are not that. You can lose your job, you can lose your health, your partner, your family, car, house, etc, etc…. You will still exist.
Giving control to desires, things, labels, poses ultimately lets other things outside of you, take control of your happiness. Why would you give away that power?
On the mat:
1. Practice detaching from the idea that there is a certain way a pose should look. Your yoga pose doesn’t need to look like the front of some magazine, an Instagram picture, the teachers or the person next to you. All that matters is that it feels good and you are breathing with control. Every body in a yoga room looks different therefore start to embrace an attitude that every pose in the yoga room should look a little different too J
2. Drop attachment to poses. This is a big one. Working on strengthening and working towards certain poses is definitely part of the yoga practice in building discipline and will power. However it is possible to work towards something without being attached to the outcome. Eg. If you are working towards the splits, you may practice the pose everyday but you are not forcing your body or disappointed/angry everytime you don’t make it. Instead you practice. And if one day it happens you will be pleasantly surprised. And if it never happens you will be at peace too J
3. Detach from your teacher. Yoga is the practice of you connecting to yourself – body, breath, mind & soul. Your teacher is your guide. Your reminder to stay present. Your point of meditation to allow you to switch off and follow the cues. If there is a teacher that you were not expecting taking the class it is a perfect opportunity to see if you can detach from the reaction and just delve into your practice.
4. Detaching from your body! Yes the Green Room does have a clothing policy. It is WEAR CLOTHES. We don’t get why people and yogi’s feel the need to get their gear off and take fangdangle pictures of them doing poses everywhere. If you are doing this and sharing – what is the motivation? Does your ego want people to see how far you have progressed…? Or how toned your abs are??? In the yoga studio the practice of yoga is about turning in. It is about connecting with your body on a much deeper level than the external. Wearing minimal clothing is a distraction for you and for others. You do not need to be checking out your body whilst practising… And again – why is there a need? If you are practicing hot yoga – you will sweat all over. A t-shirt or crop top or no top… you will still sweat all over. Wear clothes and detach from how your body looks… focus on turning in and listening to how it feels!
Off the Mat:
1. DETACH FROM THE FUTURE!!!! I want to be 5kgs lighter, I want to be prettier, I want to be paid more, I want to have a bigger house… SERIOUSLY. All this is saying to yourself is that you are not enough and that you will not be happy until you possess these things. Guess what. You won’t be happy when you have these things… the goal posts will move and you will continue to fool yourself with the pursuit of happiness. Practicing an attitude of gratitude and acceptance will ALWAYS help you find peace and happiness over attaching to a future possible outcome.
2. Let go of STUFF!!!! One of our regulars lives by the 100 rule. He has 100 items/possessions and everytime he buys something new, something else has to be given away, or thrown away. This is perhaps extreme… but maybe just start where you are… Anytime you buy something new – remove something old.
3. Stop filling your life with empty possessions. Another activity I like to do is avoid buying anything new (except for food) for a week, a month – pick your timeframe. Any time you go to purchase something/item you immediately donate the amount to a charity. Alternatively you can save up the amount and donate at the end. It’s amazing how much money we spend on things we don’t need. And how much that can help others who lack many things they actually need. Replace your wants with providing for other people’s needs.
4. Look after yourself first! Your body and energy. When we feel out of sorts with life, like we are stuck, down, can’t win, or worse we tend to really cling and attach on to those around us. This puts a lot of pressure and stress on them.. Instead, find ways to nurture, center, love yourself so that you feel independent and strong in your own right.
5. Watch your thoughts!!! Do not attach to negative thoughts. Often our negativity is an attachment. Whether you think you are ugly, fat, poor, single – its just labels and an attachment to being something else that often slips very easily into a habit. These thoughts spiral out of control, and become who you think you are. See if you can identify those attachments and replace with a positive mantra.
6. LET GO OF THE PAST. Yes people have hurt you. Yes you perceive that people have done wrong by you. Forgive. Let go of painful memories from your past. Free yourself by offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you. The reality is that you are the only one that the hurt is impacting. It does not serve you and it wastes a lot of your energy.
So this is one of my favourite elements of yoga philosophy – in the way that I interrupt it anyway. Brahmacharya is about self-restraint. Traditionally it is predominantly focused on sexual energy however it is a powerful concept that can be applied to all energy – so LIFE! To me Brahmacharya is about recognising that as humans we have limited energy, and Brahmacharya is about CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSING how you would like to use this limited energy. Its about learning to say ‘NO’ to yourself, to others etc. I wrote a blog last year in September (2014) about letting go of that which does not serve you… this is a similar concept.
Lets go deeper.
Our life force/energy is limited and precious. It is the most valuable thing you can share with anyone, give to anything, yet we often just throw it around. Everything in your life impacts your energy levels – everything will take energy, maintain your energy levels, or increase your energy. Right now can you think of someone that you DREAD seeing because they are energy drainers? Then can you think of doing something that excites you and gives you energy? I know even talking about yoga gives me energy!
Brahmacharya is teaching us to monitor how we expend (and gather) our energy. But as the translation ‘self restraint’ would indicate it is also about building will power and discipline to build and cultivate stronger energy. It’s about learning that all important word (that I feel like there is social resistance too.) “NO”.
It should be ok to say “NO.” No reason. No justification. Just “No” because it is not a good choice for you.
On the Mat:
**If you are in downdog and there is an optional vinyasa/flow/pose/challenge… if you are the person that always pushes yourself too far you will gain more energy, strength and will power by restraining. By saying ‘NO’ - resisting that temptation to do one more flow. By changing your habits.
On the flip side, if you are the person that is always sitting back in your pose, just flowing through the motions, you will gain more strength, energy and will power by moving outside of your comfort zone. By saying “No” to the invalid excuses, that temptation to run, temptation to sit back.
On the yoga mat Brahmacharya also applies as we are also looking for energy efficiency. We are looking at trying to share the effort in poses so you can find that perfect balance of effort and ease that allows you to breathe with control so that you can cultivate more energy. Can you say “No” to your ego when it wants to keep pushing but you are panting like a puppy??? Your yoga practice should be to your body what taking your car to the petrol station is… Refuelling, re-energising.
Off the Mat:
Its about saying “NO” to yourself when you reach for your forth Tim Tam, when you are tempted to do your 3rd yoga class for the day, when you want to take a short cut rather than doing it properly, when you know you are making invalid excuses. Its using the word ‘No” to constrain your energy, to restraint your desires, to discipline your mind and body - to fuel your life force. Choosing what you know is best for you long term…. Not in that transient moment.
Equally it is about learning to say ‘No’ to others. I still am not amazing at this. Learning to set boundaries around friendships, time, relationships and families. Saying ‘No’ when you know you need to recoup a little, limiting time with people you feel deplete you, spending more time with people who energise you.
#01: Identify an addiction, or your kryptonite. Whether it is instagram, sex, running, drugs, yoga, salt and vinegar chips, soy chai’s, chocolate, alcohol, running, exercising, gossiping… What do you crave? What do you over-do? What do you get kicks out of where you need to exercise self constraint? Start slowly and simply. How can you start to gather more prana/energy? Cut back and watch how your ego starts to find validation in your old ways. Watch the resistance in the breaking of the habits.
#02. Before you immediately say ‘YES’ to anything –pause. Whether you need to pause before you pick something up at the supermarket, put the phone down and have a think before you message someone back, or simply walk away. Pause and assess. Don’t respond or act without thinking if right now that is the best option for your energy reserves. Will this option give you energy, take energy or leave you neutral.
#03: When you roll out your yoga mat set the intention to be more energy conservative in your practice. Come back to a steady seat (equal effort & ease) where your breath is only even, slow, controlled and through the nose. Feel the difference in your energy when you step off your mat at the end of class.
Observe your life. Increase your awareness. Grow your consciousness.
“The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga. While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.” B.K.S Iynegar
Many people ask me questions about Yoga. What is it about? What lies beneath the practice? They want to understand the meaning behind all the changes that are happening –physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically.
Yoga in the Western world is predominantly reduced to the weird shapes we make with our body. Ironically, the poses are only one of the eight parts of yoga (from a Raja Yoga perspective). Yoga in its entirety is a science, a formula to achieve enlightenment – which simply means ‘to see’… A formula to see life more clearly, to see ourselves more clearly but perhaps even more simply - a formula to help reduce our suffering – or perceived suffering as I like to say, as we choose whether we suffer.
At the green room we are intertwining many parts of yoga into any general class. There is of course the poses (asana )and breathing techniques (pranayama) but we add in withdrawal of senses (to help look within), meditation, concentration, and many of the yoga ethics and personal concepts thrown in for thought. Just like the great teacher Iynegar, we truly believe a yoga class can help you move through all parts of yoga.
Asana (poses) can embody all that yoga offers. We try to work on that at the Green Room. However for those who want a little more detail over the next little while we are going to take a walk through some of the yoga philosophy ideas and see how they apply on the mat… and in turn how you can apply them off the mat. Get ready to become more aware, more conscious and see more clearly J
#1: AHIMSA: Non harming
AHIMSA – Non harming to yourself or others - in its most pure form - KINDNESS :)
When translated literally Ahimsa is referring to literally not harming other beings but instead maintaining compassion for yourself and ALL other beings. It goes above and beyond physical harm and is referring to your behaviour, your words and of course those all-powerful thoughts.
On the Yoga Mat
On the yoga mat Ahimsa is a great focal point. In Western society we are taught to always want more, to push ourselves and demand more from our body, energy and mind. Ahimsa is the opposite. It asks us to really connect to our body – to listen to it and honour it in that moment. This applies to if you are working with a physical injury, illness, weakness or just had a rough day. It does take some practice to recognise the difference between when you are choosing to run from a pose because your mind is telling you that you cannot hold it anymore (building your mental weaknesses – feeding your flight response) – and the opposite moving slowly out of a pose because your body is telling you ‘That is enough thankyou.’ You will hear challenging cues from the teacher – come down lower into your horse, or surrender into your pidgeon…. Both are equally as hard. Both are equally as important. Learning to listen to your body and practice ahimsa (non-violence and compassion to yourself) whilst still being able to strengthen your body is one of the great lessons of yoga.
Ahimsa is not only applied in a physical sense on the mat. GRY practitioners are well aware it applies to your thoughts just as much. Observing your thoughts is step one. Retraining them is step two. Rather than beating yourself up about falling out of a pose or the fact that your legs have their shake on, or you are not as strong as last week see if you can redirect that internal dialogue to be positive and encouraging. As we say ‘Speak only to yourself as you would speak to a small child that you love.’ Kindness, understanding and encouragement prevail.
Off the Yoga Mat
Ahimsa off the mat continues everywhere you look. It is about how you interact with people, animals and the environment – how much love and compassion you show them, how you speak to them, how you judge or don’t judge them. Once you have started to practice ahimsa on the mat you will start to be a little more aware of how you treat yourself and others.
The Dalia Lama suggests that before we speak we ask ourselves ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” If you ask yourself this before you speak I can almost guarantee that you won’t have nearly half as much to say J Your words and behaviour have a strong effect on the world around you. A simple smile at someone may make their day. A small kind gesture may make their week. And a hug at that exact perfect moment may be enough to improve their outlook on mankind. Practice ahimsa wherever you can. To all beings.
Of course practicing Ahimsa in the internal dialogue is as critical off the mat as it is on. We are our own worst critics. There are enough critics in the world. See if you can retrain your mind to be a fan of your amazing self.
## Ahimsa Challenges
#01: Try to only speak and behave if it’s true, kind and necessary. Notice how many things you refrain from saying or doing. This will be hard. Its ok if you forget, just assess afterwards whether what you said was required.
#02: See if you can carry on Ahimsa off the mat. Start with the physical. Rather than tormenting your body with crazy runs that your ego is doing because your bestie is running a marathon, maybe listen to when your body says ‘That’s enough.’ Rather than doing one million things each weekend, put aside an hour or two to do soul and body nurturing things.
#03: Look for the good in everyone you meet. We are all the same. Fighting the same silent battles of life and just trying to understand its meaning. Whether you are arguing with someone, bump into someone, interacting at a store see if you can feel compassion and understanding for each person you meet. Start to look for the commonalities that you share.
#04: Take it to a whole new level. See if you can give every person you speak to a compliment. Not only will it make them feel great – it has to create some good karma for you too J
A while back I wrote an equation for happiness. Sounds crazy I know. But I think it really sums up my perception on how to maximise your happiness. This is why when you practice at the Green Room you will hear all these words commonly thrown into the class.
Your Happiness = (Gratitude + Acceptance + Kindness)
Unfortunately Yoga in the Western world is often limited to a concept of putting our foot behind our head, a super strong workout, or a relaxing airy fairy class taught by a hippie. But it offers so much more. In each and every class you are subjected to subtle messages on how to transform your life. How to start to watch yourself, to control the
way your mind works, to control your body, to master yourself – nuggets of wisdom you will take or leave. Happiness creation is something we are big on at the Green Room – for obvious reasons. Life is simply easier if you learn to be happy. Of course this is always a work in progress. But even the work makes so much difference.
Often at the Green Room you will find your legs shaking, your mind throwing insults and sweat dripping into your eyes as the teacher calmly says ‘Smile.’ “Why? WTF? You expect me to smile, you want me to pretend I am enjoying this aching pain, when
we still have a minute to go?” is usually the facial expression that is shot back at the teacher. But slowly you start to get it. Slowly you start to get that happiness & enjoyment are a state of mind. And that YOU are in control of how your react, and therefore feel. That in that very moment even with your legs shaking like crazy you can stop and detach from the physical and simply focus on being happy. Happy that you are there improving your body, your mind, your strength, your health. Happiness is a choice. This power to detach from the external environment and be happy with what is – is a lesson that empowers your life on and off the mat.
Can you choose to be happy? Are you prepared to work on your happiness equation?
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others... I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” Dalai Lama XIV
Another easy way to manifest more happiness is practising gratitude – another lesson intrinsic to the culture at the Green Room. Too often in today’s society we focus on what we want – or what we don’t have. Be that weight loss, a higher salary, a bigger house, a partner, a holiday – always pinning our happiness on a goal or external element. Start to look within. Start to focus on what you already have. We are so incredibly blessed. Wake up each morning and find 10 things you have to be grateful for. You are alive, you have breath, you have a roof over your head, you have access to food, you have people who love you, you live in an amazing country, you have spare change. ALWAYS there is something to be grateful for. Then start to live your day this way. When you find a challenge or something that upsets/irritates you see if you can find something to be grateful for. Perhaps you can learn something about yourself, perhaps you will see a better way to do something next time. And go to bed again finding 10 things that happened that day that you are grateful for. Remember you are so
lucky. You will start to see a shift if your attitude, and your happiness.
Can you be grateful for today?
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
No situation is negative or positive – another lesson you will be accustomed too – Acceptance of what is. Chair pose – not negative or positive :) Whether it is a crazy arm balance that you just can’t get but the teacher keeps freakin putting it in the class, a work colleague yelling at you or losing your favourite sunglasses. It is your reaction to the situation that determines whether it is positive, negative or neutral. The situation
happened. It itself is a neutral situation until you start to label it. So start to watch your reactions. Most the time they are old thought/behavioural patterns coming into play. Next time you are stuck in traffic, faced with an aggressive person or a sucky situation - Before you react see if you can pause. Watch what you automatically go to – assess if this is appropriate and productive – and then react in an appropriate manner, trying to conserve your energy from yourself. Being upset, angry, etc all waste your energy and really it doesn’t achieve anything.
Can you choose to accept things for what they are?
dropping those dirty expectations.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
Dropping those nasty expectations is yet another happiness lesson at the Green Room. Have you ever arrived to class feeling freakin amazing and thinking you are going to nail every single pose, including that crazy pose you have been practicing at home. You roll out your mat, feeling strong and ready and then a new teacher walks in. The class is slower, less physically challenging that you expected and you feel jibbed. You came here to work up a sweat, to perfect your poses, and you wanted to show the teacher just how far you have come. Drop that sh*t right now. Expectations lead to unhappiness. Every class no matter who or what the teacher is teaching is an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself. You can take each class and pose to where ever you want to. Yet another lesson that continues in the real world.
Have you ever been to a movie that everyone has talked up for 3 weeks only to be ridiculously let down??? Expectations lead to disappointment. If you start to drop your expectations of everything and everyone around you, life is easier. If you simply accept things as they are and as they happen you are not disappointed as you were not expecting anything different in the first place. One common problem area is putting our own expectations on how others should behave – friends, work colleagues, family. We need to remember that we are all individuals, with different thoughts and behavours. It is simply not fair to put your expectations of the world on other people.
Can you start to drop your expectations of others and situations?
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Indeed we do have the power to choose to be happy in any moment and this can be enhanced by practicing gratitude, dropping expectations, and reacting appropriately to situations. But if you stop and think about what actually makes you happy in life you will almost undoubtedly find that it is in fact sharing compassion, love and happiness with others that in turn brings happiness to others and yourself.
This is where the concept of Random acts of kindness comes from. Often we preach about random acts of kindness at the Green room as they are an easy way to increase your state of happiness whilst also making the world a better place. Whether they are as simple as picking up someone else’s rubbish, smiling at a stranger, buying food for the homeless, helping a stranger, calling an old friend, donating to a charity, they are all small acts that make a difference.
A few months ago the Green Room set a challenge to practice random acts of kindness. A regular student took this to a whole new level. After experiencing phenomenal life change induced by the Green Room – loosing 12 kilos in a few months, finding acceptance of traumatic life challenges and ultimately finding happiness at a time it seemed impossible- the student decided to share the happiness the Green Room had created with others. The random acts of kindness challenge was taken to a whole new level. They were not random acts of kindness but in fact well thought out and heart filled deeds. We had to share!!!! 7 acts of kindness in 7 days.
1. “For my first act of kindness I thought about how someone would feel if they were frail or unwell like my parents. How it would feel if they were unable to care for themselves but didn’t have family to visit or tell them it was going to be alright. The lonliness exaggereated by disorientation of medication. For this act I found a hospital and I had flowers delivered with a note that read only “These are for the patient that needs them the most.”
2. For my second act I thought about children and how they must feel without parents to care for them… those that had been through something traumatic….those who had never really known a childhood that I had been lucky enough to have had…. Children who felt lost – who might find their way if only they were shown some kindness. So I got some toys and gave them to a refugee appeal an asylum seeker resource center was having.
3. For act number three I thought about the conflict that I’d felt internally and how I’d been taught to breath. I started thinking how essential that was, and what the other essentials in life were – like water. I got to thinking about how there are places in this world where people are feeling conflict just like me but in a more physical sense, and didn’t have easy access to the bare essentials of life. So for this act I funded a clean water project for families fleeing Syria.
4. The fourth act just sort of happened. On my way back from the hospital one day I found $50 on the side of the road. I waited to see if someone would come back but when they didn’t I didn’t feel right keeping it. I thought about the way Korinne makes a room smile, and then really smile. So I got my friends together and we changed the fifty in one dollar coins. We then left them where others would find them. We left them on pay phones, so people could call loved ones on us. We tipped waiters for no reason – just walked in, tipped, smiled and walked out… and we left them in playgrounds for children to find and feel like millionaires or pirates discovering treasure. The hope that each find would inspire a new smile just like Korinne does in class.
5. For my fifth act I thought about what I’ve learnt about myself and how others should be free to learn as well. I’ve been reading the book by Malala Yousafzai the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for supporting education rights of women. Her courage and her as a person are the personification of this thought so to enact this act I gave to a grass roots rural Afghan education program.
6. Number six I thought about how the Green Room was an escape for me… wanting to give a gift of self I called every contract in my phone, one by one, for no reason, just to talk. I let them know how much they meant to me and just listened. Letting them escape, if only for a little while.”
The 7th act was a mind blowing letter to the Green Room. A letter that had me in tears knowing we were helping people find peace and happiness. And at how absolutely big this student’s heart was. It made me so incredibly happy to know that what we do at the Green Room is sending out compassionate vibrations across the region…Image the positive change you can bring into the world by sharing some kindness.
Can you start to work on choosing to be happy? Starting to drop your expectations of others and situations? Starting to practice acceptance of what is? Starting to practice gratitude? Beginning to incorporate random acts of kindness into your everyday life??
Basically the greater your acceptance, your compassion and gratitude, and the less your expectations – the greater your overall happiness.
Millions of books have been written on finding happiness and everyone here on this planet is just trying to find their own happiness. How hard are you working for yours?
Written by Korinne McNeill.
KORINNE McNEILL: Yoga is life for Korinne. Creator of the Green Room Korinne is grateful everyday that she gets to share her passion with others.