jump to navigation

The Light Is On (the “missing” post) October 18, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

[My apologies for the delayed posting. Hopefully this is not a new trend. You can request an audio recording of Saturday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible, class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“It all begins with an understanding of why stretch your body. I ask students that, ‘Why do you want to stretch your body?’ They might answer, ‘Because I want to feel better.’ I don’t stop there. I keep questioning. ‘Why do you want to feel better?’ They might say, ‘Because I want to sleep better.’ And on we go. I don’t let them stop at the first answer. I ask them to keep looking deeper, keep peeling it back and get to the root of all it. What it comes down to is that we all have a longing to thrive.”



– Rod Stryker, quoted from “A Conversation with Yoga Master Rod Stryker” in Healing Garden Journal by Jan Deremo Lundy (2004)

There’s a certain internationally known actor who was in a tropical location filming an action movie in November 2000. Not long after the movie came out, I was talking to a bunch of people (mostly men) who were trying to pinpoint exactly why they found her so appealing. It was more than the role, they said, it was something about the actor… something about her vitality. That, her vitality, I pointed out was exactly the appeal: everything about her in that role was about being alive. And, not just alive… ALIVE!

To be fair, some of it was the role (and the characters singular determination). It also didn’t hurt that the actor was 25 and that the tropical environment – not to mention hair, makeup, and the activity level required for the role – all contributed to a certain glow.

It’s the same kind of glow often attributed to someone who is pregnant. In the base case, during pregnancy, hormones flood the body and there is an increase in blood flow. Additionally, there may be an increase in oil secretion and skin elasticity. Granted, if there is already some imbalance (especially as it relates to the skin), someone might develop or experience an increase in acne or rashes. But, generally, a person changes their diet, drinks more water, takes more vitamins, and eliminates certain toxins (which may counterbalance the imbalance). They may even get more sleep for a period of time. All of which can make someone look younger, vibrant, more alive: glowing. Keep in mind, however, that just like with certain yoga practices (like the practice of bramacarya) what is happening on the outside – what others perceive – is not nearly as important as what is happening on the inside. On the inside, everything in a pregnant person’s body is focused, concentrated, on sustaining the lives of the parent and the child.

Newborns also have a certain glow to them. Once the detritus of birth is cleaned of them, they look shiny and have a newness about them that extends into their infant and toddler period. Even their skin and hair smell good. Sure, as TM reminded me after class, there are certain things about babies that don’t smell good – but again, that’s a reflection of what’s happening on the inside. The newness, the shininess, the glow also comes from what’s happening on the inside. Everything in the baby’s system focused on one thing: the process of living and growing.

Notice that in all of the above examples, everything comes back to being focused on a single goal or purpose. Now, remember that the Sanskrit word Yoga means “union” and comes from the root word meaning “to yoke.” One classic example is yoking two oxen with the singular purpose of plowing a field. Another classic example is to think of your body as a chariot driven by the charioteer, the intellect (buddhi) that uses the mind-brain’s desire as the reins to steer the horses, which represent the senses. The roads or trails are desires and possibilities. Along for the ride is a passenger, the Atman (the element of the Divine you can call the Soul, the Self, the Consciousness, or the Witness – although, in this case, I call Her “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”).

When the charioteer is not in control, the horses (senses) attempt to drag the whole contraption in every direction – not even staying on a particular path – and the mind-brain follows like reins flapping in the wind. The charioteer might even fall off the wagon. When the charioteer is in control and balanced, the horses go where they are directed. Keep in mind that the intellect has to be in balance; otherwise, you might find yourself going nowhere. Through it all, no matter what happens, The Little Old Lady from Pasadena sits in the back and witnesses it all.

She can tell you everything She has observed about where you’ve been and also about where you’re going. She can tell you when reins are too loose or too tight; when the horses need to be watered, feed, or rested; when you’re going to be ambushed; when you’re going to successfully arrive at your destination; and when you will be taking the scenic route. She knows and communicates all of this – although you (and your intellect) may or may not be listening.


 “The human body is naturally endowed with unique qualities and capacities, such as beauty, charm, vitality, and self-healing power (YS 3:46)…. When the body is feed of impurities and replenished, its innate wisdom awakens spontaneously. Inner balance is restored – our limbs and organs function harmoniously. Our heart, brain, and endocrine and autonomic nervous system become acutely aware of our internal needs. The healing and nourishing process is accelerated. The internal organs are revitalized. The sense organs and the subtle power of the intelligence that empower them with the capacity to comprehend, feel, and act are energized and responsive.”



– commentary on Yoga Sūtra 2.43 from The Practice of the Yoga Sūtra: Sadhana Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

The basic human body can be viewed as a complex mechanical made up of simple machines. What I mean is that our body is comprised of organs, joints, bones, connective tissue, nerves, and fluids that each have a purpose and all are designed to work together. When each part works as it should, it contributes to the success of the other parts. When one part is not working optimally, it becomes a drag on the entire system. Just as in basic mechanics, an ideal system (which in this case is a healthy system) is one where energy is conserved rather than dissipated; the power put into the system equals the power put out of the system; and it is relatively easy to calculate the energy and power of the system.

Where things get complicated is when we factor in the fact that we are constantly (and sometimes consistently) introducing toxins and other obstacles which deteriorate the system and/or make it harder for the different parts to do their simple jobs. Remember, these toxins and obstacles are not only things we may physically consume, they are also things we may mentally and/or emotionally consume. They are things we do, as well as things we do not do. These toxins and obstacles are distractions – and they take away our luster.

Look around and you will notice that some people shine regardless of their age. Other people seem dull – despite their chronological youth. It all comes back to how well we are functioning as a whole system. Patanjali offers five ways to act ethically on the outside (the yamās); five ways to interact with ourselves internally (the niyamās); and consistently emphasizes the importance of how the practice gives us power by keeping things in balance – working as things are designed to work. In the absence of the practice, he recommends cultivating opposites, which produce a similarly desired effect. In the case of the third niyamā, he offers an opportunity to literally burn away that which no longer serves the system (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and energetically).

Yoga Sütra 2.43: kāyendriyasiddhiraśuddhikşayāt tapasah



– “Impurities of the body and senses are destroyed by tapas, resulting in powerful mastery of the body and senses.”


Tapas is a Sanskrit that can be translated as heat (also “shining heat” and “to melt”), discipline, and austerity. In the philosophy of Yoga, it simultaneously refers to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual qualities and also to the practices that cultivate physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual heat, discipline, and austerity. Sometimes, to cover as many bases as possible, it is translated into English as “discipline and training the senses” or “mortification.” The latter is tricky, because the classic definition of “mortification” – especially when related to religion and spirituality – is specifically defined as the opposite of tapas in Yoga.

To highlight tapas, I often use giving up leaven bread during Passover; giving up anything during Lent; and fasting for Yom Kippur, Lent, the month of Ramadān, and the Bahá’í Nineteen-Day Fast as examples of the correct purpose and practice. In these examples, people are engaging in a multidimensional challenge in order to develop better understanding of themselves and cultivate a deeper spiritual bond with the Divine (and with their community). There is nothing in these ritual practices that is about embarrassment, humiliation, or torture – and the only death is the symbolic death of physical desire. Furthermore, each tradition specifically outlines situations where people should not observe the practice because it could be detrimental to their health.

“‘Some people, due to excessive passions and desires, invent harsh ways to inflict pain on themselves. In their foolishness they hurt their bodies and senses and outrage Me, the Atma who lives within them. They may seem to be endowed with ‘faith’, but such practices are harmful to their spiritual growth.



‘There are other behaviors that bear on spiritual attainment. One’s eating habits play a part in it, a fact that few recognize. And the way one performs the three main spiritual disciplines – sacrifice (yajna, offering up), purification (tapas, austerities), and charity (dana, alms giving) – also influences one’s spiritual development. Each of these three disciplines can also be understood in light of the three guna types.’


The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (17:5 – 7) by Jack Hawley


“‘The purpose The purpose of purification is not pain and penance, but to deliberately refine one’s life, to melt it down and recast it into a higher order of purity and spirituality. The goal is very important; it is not self-punishment but refinement — to shift from human existence into Divinity!’


The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (17:14) by Jack Hawley

The Bhagavad Gita specifically defines appropriate physical and mental tapas, as well as austerity of speech. These neatly coincide and overlap with the yamās and niyamās – with extra emphasis being placed on mental austerity since everything springs from one’s thoughts. One additional nuance here is that when it comes to speech there is an elaboration on words being truthful and also “‘not hurting; not flattering; and devotional chanting (read aloud)…. The point is to express (even under your breath) only beneficial words that promote movement toward Divinity.’” (BG 17:15)

The physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, regardless of the style or tradition) can be a form of tapas. When engaging in the practice, however, you have to keep in mind the purpose of the practice. In other words: Why you’re stretching your mind-body. The challenges in the practice are not “party tricks;” they are an opportunity to practice discipline and austerity. They should not be painful or compromise your awareness of your breath. My role as a teacher is not to humiliate or embarrass you, but to remind you to consider what is appropriate for your mind-body-spirit on any given day and in any given moment. When we align our movement (mind-body) with our intention (intellect) and our spirit (breath), we tap into our innate wisdom, the wisdom of the heart (intuition) we increase our power and have the ability to go where we want to go and do what we want to do.  

This is yoga.

“Over the course of these past six decades, we have actually evolved from being primarily five sensory to becoming multisensory creatures. We are actively intuitive, we have emotional and psychic intelligence, and with any luck eventually we will recognize that our soul is an active intelligent agent in our life system. Our psyches are governed by archetypal patterns, containers of myths and symbols that continually feed our unconscious. Our health and well-being feeds off of the stories we tell ourselves, stories that are created, generated, and rooted in our myths…. All of these systems that combine to make up each human life need to be understood in terms of how they speak to each other, how they participate in acts of creation, how they interact with the creative mechanisms of our psyche and soul, and how their sensitivities influence the development of physical illnesses. And further, how do we interact with this extraordinary system of life that is US when it comes to healing an illness?”



– quoted from “What Can You Heal in Five Minutes” (from the 2014 Online Salon) by Caroline Myss

Saturday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (Some songs after the practice music contain some “explicit” lyrics.)


I will leave the light on…you just have to step into the light. (Please note, this version contains some “explicit” lyrics).


If you are thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also call the TALK line if you are struggling with addiction or involved in an abusive relationship. The Lifeline network is free, confidential, and available to all 24/7. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT ANYTHING.





No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: