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Master yoga teacher and Purna Yoga co-founder Aadil Palkhivala, who began his study of yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar at the age of 7, believes the "whole yoga" is so much more than what we do on the mat. In fact, he says yoga can and should be applied to many of the daily struggles we face in modern times, starting with what he calls our "rather warped lifestyle."
"Yoga is designed for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to connect with the love and light of your spirit and seek its guidance to live your dharma, [individual and collective purpose]," he explains. "We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten why we are here. It's no wonder we are so tense. It's no wonder we spend our time watching TV, reading trash, being willing to abuse our senses by listening to violent words in movies, and drinking coffee to wake us up because we are so tired inside," he says, noting that our compulsive use of technology is another huge problem. "Our basic lifestyle is evidence of our completely out-of-sync nature. Imagine having to wake up with a stimulant—that means that I do not have any connection with my spirit. Imagine having to sleep with a sleeping pill—that means there is no calmness in my nervous system."
Step 1: Turn to yoga philosophy
The yamas and niyamas are very clear about the prerequisites for a yogic lifestyle, Palkhivala says. "The nature of the human being today is a nature that is always wanting more, but not being content with what we have. And the beauty of yoga and the sensibility of yoga is the balance between santosha (contentment) and tapas (self-discipline). There must be hard work, there must be effort, there must be endeavor and the reach for excellence, but simultaneously there must be a complete satisfaction with the situation as it is. If these two are not balanced, then we have a problem. If there is too much satisfaction, then there is torpor, laziness, lack of effort, and the world does not grow or improve. On the other hand, if there is a constant striving without equanimity and contentment, then we get burnout."
Step 2: Observe yourself on the mat
What we do one the mat is almost irrelevant compared to what we do off the mat, Palkhivala notes. "We are on the mat for an hour a day, off the mat for 23. However, on the mat, when you are practicing asana, watch yourself trying and working hard and appreciate that effort, and yet, have complete contentment with your body as it is. Effort must not be substitute for laziness, and laziness must not be a cover-up for santosha. I cannot pretend I am content when actually I am lazy. I cannot pretend I am working hard when I am discontented with my body as it is. A real practice of asana is constant self-reflection, not jumping from one pose to another in a hot room."
Inspired to learn more? Join Aadil Palkhivala's six-week Master Class to align your asana and transform your life through yoga philosophy. Sign up now!