The First Day

The first day, the first week, the first step.

Life is like a long road full of firsts.  My first yoga practice came about 30 years ago with Lillian Folas on PBS.  Shoulderstand was my least favorite, and continues to this day to be one of the yoga poses that I am least in love with.  A very interesting thing I find about that first yoga practice, is that I never know if I can really say that is when I started practicing yoga.  It is true, and it was probably 1983-1984 that I started practicing yoga, but is it really true?  I mean seriously, who starts practicing yoga at 7 years old that doesn't come from india?  Does it happen?  Of course the longer our Yoga Bio seems to be, the more experience we seem to have an the more wows we get as teachers, but seriously now, when did you start practicing yoga?

This is a good question to be asking ourselves.  Atha Yoga Anushasanam.  We begin practicing yoga now, and as my teacher (not by his knowledge) Douglas Brooks says 'with all do respect to Ram Das, which now?'  

One of the things about yoga is that it has some seriously vague boundaries.  Oodles of the modern day masters, including Sivananda, Vivekananda, Muktananda, and many others claim Jesus Christ as a yogi, but I have a few seriously conservative members of my mothers family who would expect me to spend a seriously long time in a very hot place if I was an exponent of such ideas.  And yet I agree that the man, the saint, the 'son of God', was a yogi of the highest ideals, but was he practicing yoga?

Now we need to get into Linguistics, as well as get into the idea of defining ourselves and what kind of interpretation of things that we are going to try to adhere to.  In the world where I live, when people call me a Yogi, I kindly tell them, 'I am a Tantrica.'  But with my study recently and the Article on Swami Muktananda I read recently by Sarah Caldwell, I am not sure if that is a good thing or not.  For those of you who are interested in Tantra, check out Aghora, this is a branch of the left handed Tantra that is wild and crazy, though not quite of the sexual variety, at least not so much.  For those of you interested in the sexual practices...  Vajroli mudra...  um never mind.

So now I begin practicing yoga.  Here in Taipei 2 days after (as a result of a big Typhoon) I watched the river next to my house go probably 2 meters above flood stage to submerse the basketball courts next to it, I wonder what this is going to mean for me and my life.  

I have started working with a wonderful life coach from the Handel Group named Hildie Dunn, and she is trying to teach me about integrity, as well as to change my relationship with money so that I see it more as an energy exchange, and in my words, to stop the poverty mentality that has been with me from a few years after that first yoga practice when I was living in poverty with help by the state of Michigan's wonderful taxpayers to give my mother food stamps so that I could eat.  This was definitely after that time practicing yoga, but as I looked through the Sears Roebuck catalog every day at all the stuff I was going to buy when I had money, was I doing yoga then???

Hiranyakashipu hated Vishnu so much that it became a form of devotion, and the power of his devotion was rewarded with boons that were usually offered to those dreadlocked, ganga smoking, contorted yogis who would stand on one leg for a 1000 years or something like that.  Brahma was pleased at the power of this yoga that was brought upon by the devotion of hatred.  Seriously contemplate that.  The highest kind of yoga can come from the emotion that is sometimes considered the root of evil.

So maybe my my envy as a constant desire for the material goods of the world were a kind of yoga that helped me get to this place of being yoga teacher today, and not a deadly sin.  On that note, I remember being a kid and putting my entire being into my hockey playing.  Giving every last bit of my energy physical and mental, emotional, I loved my hockey.  I was devoted to my hockey.  Every aspect of my being for the entire duration of every game I played from the first until the last was completely immersed into the practice of Ice Hockey.  This kind of devotion comes from a one pointed focus that can only happen when a state of Dharana (focus or practice) moves a being into a state of Dhyana (more deep focus), creating a state of oneness that is what the second Yoga Sutra teaches.  The cessation, or stanching , or stopping the whirlwinds of the mind.  I can tell you that with absolute certainty that by that definition, I was playing hockey as a yoga practice for many years of my childhood.

So maybe since that first yoga practice in my living room with my mother was the beginning of a lifetime of yoga.  A lifetime of seeking a deeper integrity, and a deeper connection to myself, while seeking a place of Cidananda joyful living that few could really argue is the goal of life.

This first day is something to strive for, something to move towards, something to move away from, and something to forget at the same time.  The more I hold onto my first day of practicing yoga with Lillias, the more that I make that a part of my identity, the more that I contract around this 28-30 years of yoga practice that has become the vast bulk of the years in this lifetime that may or may not be halfway over, the more I am taken away from the practice of yoga now.  Remember where you came from, honor your teachers, love yourself for all that you are, and play nice with integrity of the deepest kind.  Now is the time for your yoga practice to begin.