The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE


{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }


At the Yoga Path there are bookmarks on the ledge by the gnarly Christmas cactus. They were created when first opening the school as a marketing tool. Something to hand out to prospective clients and at health fairs. I hand them out when someone new wants a business card and often include them in business letters sent out. They are often overlooked by the regular students who come and go, while I forget about them too, except when dusting around them at the front end of the studio.

The title at the top of the bookmark is HOW TO PRACTICE YOGA WITHOUT EVEN BENDING. At the time of their inception, I think I was trying to be clever, but actually the teaching on them is quite ancient. The list of four things to practice is:

  1. Friendliness toward the Joyful
  2. Compassion for those who are Suffering
  3. Celebrating the Good in others
  4. Having Equanimity to the Faults and Imperfections of other

These are referred to in Yoga as the Brahmaviharas (Four Immeasurable Minds)*. In Sanskrit they are
1. Maitri (metta in Pali)
2. Karuna (compassion)
3. Mudita (joy)
4. Upeksha (equanimity)

These aren’t just concepts, but responses to everyday life situations.
Maitri is often called loving-kindness, but another translation is friendliness and generosity. Do you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is happy or joyful, but find yourself being resentful or jealous?
Or perhaps someone is suffering, but you don’t feel compassion, but a sense of satisfaction they are getting what they deserve?
How often do we notice someone doing something good or kind, but we feel sense of suspicion or contempt? Or perhaps we don’t even recognize the good in others, or even a beautiful flower or sunrise, because of the mood that dominates our thoughts?
And this loss of equanimity toward others, often arises because we see ourselves as apart from and separate from the person in front of us. Upeksha is translated by Thich Nhat Hanh as inclusiveness or interbeing. This separation from people and things around us, is just a mental formation created by our judgements and stories constantly playing in our minds.

Yet yoga in it’s psychology as laid out in the sutras is always very practical. It’s not concerned that we practice the four Brahmaviharas so we can become good, moral people. The teaching in the Patajanjali’s sutras encourages us to practice them because, if we don’t, the mind will turn inward and obstacles will stand in the way of our progress.

These obstacles are succinctly listed as

failure to achieve stillness
failure to maintain stillness

Such obstacles make the body restless, the breathing coarse, and the mind agitated. They result in suffering.

So this is what’s on the bookmark at the Path. Sometimes I wonder if the design or the typeface I selected obscures the message on the bookmark. Or maybe it’s just easier and more accessible to practice bending?

*”The four Brahmaviharas are immeasurable, because if you practice them, they will grow in you every day until they embrace whole world. You will become happier and everyone around you will become happier, also.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, ,

One Response

  1. M.S. says:

    Mark, this is just what I needed. I’m having an awful time with pesky agitation and anger. This entry helps me to consider that I am attached to a vision of the way the world ought to work in this time of suffering from the pandemic and the state of power and politics in the U.S. and some other countries. Perhaps I can accept life as it is, simply practice the 4 attitudes and do whatever possible to change the way the world is. I know this appears so completely transparent but I was caught in the maelstrom of current events and couldn’t see the way.

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