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How to Practice Yoga When You Cannot Do So Physically

June 6, 2022

Inspired by Baba Hari Dass and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Note from the author: I recently had my back go out for nearly three weeks after being on a ladder for many hours that had narrow rungs, while wearing soft shoes! Alongside the pain from back spasms which set off latent pains in my joints seemingly everywhere, I discovered through obtaining x-rays that I have hip dysplasia, which has been present since since birth and is now resulting in osteoarthritis in my hip and knees. This gave me plenty of cud to chew on while groveling with the Universe about how to adapt my normally very physically active body, which is dependent on exercise for a good mood and more than a good amount of my higher mind portent 🙂 and increased my empathy across the board for those who struggle with chronic pain. Contemplations arose…

At the heart of the unitive practices of Yoga and many earth-based religious traditions is the concept of interdependence and oneness of all life. From that knowledge arises the desire to serve others. The desire to help in some way can arise for each one of us – but given the complexity of the situations we face, the devastating corruption and disappointing lack of nonpartisan leadership we are faced with; and the resulting lack of efficacy when we most need solutions to social and environmental injustices in our country and in other places in the world– we sometimes get exhausted, nihilistic, and let our aspiration fall flat, and that precious thought fades away to a resigned sense of helplessness.

“Our actions are but a drop in the great ocean, but if we don’t take action, the ocean has that one less drop.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The person who gives has much more beyond even the satisfaction of knowing they have done something other than to standby or merely complain. There is a saying in India, “Anna datta sukhi bhava”- the one who nourishes others is made happy. This can be not only physically nourishing someone, but giving a life-enriching kindness, a smile from the eyes, an overture of calm within the felt, apparent storm of life. The smallest effort for positive emotion and clear-seeing, uplifts the one who experiences it. In this spirit, there is no gesture too small to nourish this Creation with a little infusion of goodness. Tiny acts of good intention that take us out of our false sense of privacy, separateness and alienation, are even sweeter, because all karma Yoga really takes place on the awareness level ultimately- at the secret, innermost level of motivation to serve from Love.

In February of 2003 I was at a gathering with Baba Hari Dass, founder of Mount Madonna Center here in Watsonville – where an elderly student asked what she could do to practice karma yoga since her ability to be physically active is somewhat limited. I thought this advice he gave was particularly potent for all people in this time we live in who may have best intentions to work on ourselves but have busy schedules as well or may just resist meditation. In modern times people are misinformed by the idea that Yoga is an exercise just for the physical body – yet it is not a practice for able-bodied people only, indeed! We have yet to see so much more of what Yoga is, as a path to self-realization. Baba Hari Dass mentioned three things anyone can do to connect with Yoga, the state of inner unity, humility and connection:

1) Have good thoughts towards others-

the people we encounter physically and in our minds

2) Don’t compete with anyone-

to refrain from measuring your self worth favorably or unfavorably against any other person

3) Accept the food you are given with graciousness-

all food is “given” to us through the medium of someone’s effort, first and foremost that of our respectable mother Earth and those who harvest the food. Consider the time that food takes to grow and to offer itself to us, the beings who bring it forth and those who prepare it, and eat slowly. Regard the amount of the food and the quality of the food you have as the perfect sustenance to provide you with the energy and inspiration to be capable of being awake, open and alive and empowered in your Soul to fulfill your dharma (duty) in the world.

Yoga Sutra 1.20 ~

“Trust, confidence, energy, memory, and the awareness of real knowledge acquired through intense contemplation grow through practice.”

The precious, transformative intentions given above create the potential for all kinds of good things to arise- but our habits of mind and emotion may make it difficult to retain these feelings in varying circumstances of life.

With a little sustained effort, our complacency to the negative attitudes will be broken.

The above Sutra images were excerpted from with gratitude to its’ Author.

The Author

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