Yoga is not happiness, so what is it really?
For those that practice yoga as a spiritual discipline (following the Yamas & Niyamas -- yoga's moral code of ethics) there are signs that you are evolving spiritually. As we become more disciplined in our practice, there is a trap of becoming judgemental, rigid, and even neurotic. It happens to the best of us.
One of the neuroses that is increasing in our age of healthy living, is being obsessed with being skinny, looking perfect and eating right.
Skinny doesn't always equal healthy
A result of a regular Hatha and Pranayama practice is a healthier, body. The purpose of making our body healthy is actually so the body stops being a distraction for the inner practices of yoga. It requires a lot of energy to focus on the inner workings of the mind. Unfortunately we get sucked into the media trap thinking that we need to look a certain way or perform asanas to their maximum capacity to feel worthy as a yogi.
AFFIRMATION: My body is beautiful, healthy and strong. My body does not determine my happiness.
Healthy eating can turn into an eating disorder
Food can becomes a major issue for some yogis and fasting or kriya detoxes can be overdone, which cause significant harm to the body. A person can slowly turn a healthy eating habit into an eating disorder, a term called Orthorexia, which is defined as: an obsession with eating foods that are considered healthy. This can develop into Orthorexia Nervosa, which a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods that they believe to be harmful. (Source: Google Dictionary)
There are definitely signs and symptoms to this neurosis which is important to list:
- Feelings of guilt when deviating from strict diet guidelines
- Increase in amount of time spent thinking about food
- Regular advance planning of meals for the next day
- Feelings of satisfaction, esteem, or spiritual fulfillment from eating “healthy”
- Thinking critical thoughts about others who do not adhere to rigorous diets
- Fear that eating away from home will make it impossible to comply with diet
- Distancing from friends or family members who do not share similar views about food
- Avoiding eating food bought or prepared by others
- Worsening depression, mood swings or anxiety
(Source: Timerline Knolls Residential Treatment Centre)
If you or anyone you love has any of these symptoms, seek help. Peace and happiness are our ultimate goals.
Increasingly so, I see more “yogis” causing more disruption to their peace of mind in the name of food (“I don’t eat this, and I don’t eat that), than I do regular people. I also see yogis shaming other yogis for their dietary habits. Truth is, we are all on the path towards becoming happy, healthy and peaceful human beings. Whether you eat meat or are a strict vegan, whether you still drink a glass of wine or are completely dry, we are all on our journey of evolution.
How to be more truthful in life
We all lie to our selves much more than we realise. For the sake of “keeping up appearances,” many of us fake our smiles when we are actually crying inside or hide behind our shield of success to protect our vulnerability. How to stop lying to ourselves?
Whether we care to admit it to ourselves or not, we all have two personalities: one in which we share with the world and one that we share with ourselves in the privacy of our minds. In that personal space, we reveal our true selves and our true feelings.
The personality that is harder or stronger on the outside, is usually the most sensitive and troubled on the inside. Many times, if we are living in this type of scenario, we tend to snap at people who innocently make comments about things we do not want to hear. We accuse them of being judgemental and create any type of excuse to make them feel bad, so that they don’t have to be right. That’s what someone who is lying to themselves hates - for someone else to be right!
Through a regular practice of yoga, we learn the benefits of living in truth. The voice in our head gets louder, prompting us to make changes for the better, so we cannot ignore it. Here are some ways to stop lying to yourself.
Notice the physical signs of not living in your truth
The physical signs of this are clear: stress, disturbed breathing, and symptoms of depression or irritability. When practising yoga, we get in closer touch with our true feelings. If we have been lying to ourselves about something, we will be more aware of these signs. It may feel uncomfortable because two opposing forces are battling it out in our psyche: our higher consciousness versus our comfort in habit. We know that we have to confront or change or let go of something that we frankly aren’t willing to do. This is why we feel stressed or depressed.
Determine what needs to change
The first time we acknowledge the need for change, it’s traumatic and hard. Frankly it's because we dread being judged for making mistakes. After all, humanity can be brutal. It's a great time to begin journalling and using yourself as a sounding board. One prayer that helped me to face challenge and change in my life is this:
Small, incremental changes
To begin, start small. As my beloved Guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda said, "Start with small things daily and one day you will be doing things that months before you would have thought impossible." He shares the example of cutting out sugar from your coffee or tea. If you are starting with two teaspoons a day, then for the first week, make it one and a half teaspoons. The second week make it one teaspoon. The third week, half a teaspoon and the fourth week no sugar. This helps make change easy and more permanent.
Proceed with an open and courageous heart
As we continue practising and making small incremental, each subsequent time, it gets easier. From the moment of our first success, we develop a sense of trust, which leads to increased confidence, which leads to fearlessness. We become more honest with others as well, we draw healthy boundaries and rid ourselves of toxic relationships. It’s never easy at first, but with time, it makes so much more sense and keeps our minds at peace.